Eager to grow – Marsh Marigold and Wood Poppy

by Sandy Garland

2-week-old wood poppy seedlings

2-week-old wood poppy seedlings

Some seeds just can’t wait to get growing.

Every year we collect seeds from our wildflowers at the FWG and some from the wild to grow for our annual plant sale (first Saturday in June). In the fall, we carefully mix them with damp vermiculite – or leave them in paper envelops if that’s what they require – and store them in the refrigerator to simulate winter. This allows us to get them out and germinating early so that they will be a good size by June.

For the last few years, I’ve found a few species sprouting in January while they are still in the refrigerator – wood poppy, marsh marigold, and Virginia bluebells. I have found wood poppy and marsh marigold difficult to grow; we tried both many times in the past with no success.

Finally, I tried initiating the cold treatment as soon as the seeds are mature – late spring. This produced excellent results, but there is still a problem. Although the seeds happily sprout in January, and grow well for a couple of months, many plants then slowly wilt and die.

Last year, my entire “crop” of Virginia bluebells disappeared in April and May. I speculated that having been roused from dormancy in January, they had already gone through a normal life cycle by April and died back as normal plants in the wild would have done. They didn’t bloom, but many wildflowers don’t flower the first year. I kept all the tiny tubers and I’m hoping they’ll show signs of life at the normal time this year.

I’m afraid there’s no happy ending to this story – yet. At the moment, I have 18 marsh marigold and about a dozen wood poppy seedlings that I will try to coax to maturity. And 4 flats of Virginia bluebell tubers that I hope will grow when their snow cover melts.

If anyone has experience growing these or similar wild species, I would love to hear from you.

See also: Growing native plants from seed: cold stratification
Growing common milkweed from seed: easy steps for beginners


Food for birds and other wildlife at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

by Christine Hanrahan

I thought it might be interesting to compile a list of all the natural food sources around the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, used by wildlife. I include only plants on which I have actually seen birds or other wildlife feed.

Many are obvious, of course, the crabapples, mountain ash, wild grape, sumac, and cones of various conifers. What I find interesting, and hope you do too, is the number of weedy plants that are used by wildlife, mostly birds, and mostly sparrows, finches and chickadees. Plants such as lamb’s quarters, cow vetch, brome grass, and so on, many with tiny seeds. Unfortunately, while I have many photos of birds and squirrels feeding on the big stuff… the cones and tree fruits, for example, it has been difficult to photograph birds on the weedy plants. They fly away the moment I come withing photographic distance.

The list given below can surely be added to, and surely I have forgotten some plants too! Please let me know if you have seen wildlife feeding on a species not listed below. By leaving the weedy plants standing over the winter, we are providing a wide and varied food source for our local wildlife.

The asterisk * indicates a non-native species.

*Amaranthus (Amaranthus sp.)
*Amur corktree (Phellodendron amurense)
*Amur maple (Acer ginnala)
Ash seeds (Fraxinus)
Birch catkins (Betula)
*Brome grass (Bromus inermis)
*Buckthorn, both species (Rhamnus cathartica, R. frangula)
*Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
Canada elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
*Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
*Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
*Common burdock (Arctium minus)
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
*Common plantain (Plantago major)
*Cow vetch (Vicia cracca)
*Crabapples (Malus spp.)
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
*Curly dock (Rumex crispus)
*Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Juniper (Juniperus)
*Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album)
*Mallow (Malva moschata)
*Manitoba maple (Acer negundo)
*Mullein (Verbascum thapsis)
New england aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
*Peppergrass (Lepidium densiflorum)
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
*Red clover (Trifolium pretense)
Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
*Sow thistle (Sonchus)
Speckled alder (Alnus incana)
*Spotted lady-thumb (Persicaria maculosa)
Spruce spp. (Picea)
Staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta)
Tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima)
*Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
*Timothy (Phleum pratense)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus vitacea)
*White clover (Trifolium repens)
*White sweet clover (Melilotus alba)
Wild grape (Vitis riparia)
Wild lettuce, Canada and prickly (Lactuca canadensis, L. scariola)
Wild raspberry (Rubus strigosus)