Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Lantana camara
Common Names: lantana, shrub verbena
Family: Verbenaceae (verbena or vervain family)

This is my new favorite plant for pots on the deck. I bought one in a hanging basket earlier in the summer and transplanted it to one of my big pots. It's done incredibly well, filling the entire pot, demanding very little from me. It seems to thrive in the heat and bright sun, as long as I give it a drink every few days. I finally figured out what the spent blooms look like (wasn't sure if they were buds or old blooms since the flower portion falls off) and did a bit of dead-heading last weekend. Must've made it very happy, as it's blooming all over again. I love the brilliant colors. Definitely a winner and one I'll buy every summer.

Note: After wandering around the Internet, I learned some interesting tidbits about this plant. People either love it or hate it. Some like the fragrance, while others think it has an offensive smell (from one garden site: "In fact, both the Malay and Chinese names for lantana mean 'chicken droppings flower' because of its smell.").

I also learned that it's a noxious weed in some states:

"In Florida and other Southern States this is a noxious weed and EXTREMELY POISONOUS TO LIVESTOCK AND HUMANS. It spreads by the birds eating the berries and everywhere they leave droppings more of these come up. They are IMPOSSIBLE TO KILL - I have tried everything from sprays to digging them up. I have lost livestock to this plant and I attack it aggressively everytime I see just one small plant starting in my pasture. PLEASE GROW THESE WITH CAUTION."

Here is more info on the poisonous aspect of these plants:

From the West VA State University web site:


This ornamental shrub contains lantanin, a triterpenoid, and other compounds irritating to the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract. All parts of the plant are quite toxic and poisoning may occur year-round, but is most common in summer and fall. Many poisoning cases occur when clippings are thrown into the pasture.

Sheep, cattle, horses, and humans are sensitive to the effects of the plant. Children have been poisoned by eating the berries.


Cattle are most often affected. There are two forms of toxicity: acute and chronic. The acute form usually occurs within 24 hours after eating the plants with the animal exhibiting gastroenteritis with bloody, watery feces. Severe weakness and paralysis of the limbs are followed by death in three to four days. The chronic form is characterized by jaundiced mucous membranes, photosensitization, ulcerations of the mucous membranes of the nose and oral cavity. The skin may peel, leaving raw areas that are vulnerable to blowfly strike and bacterial infection. Severe keratitis may result in temporary or permanent blindness.


Description: Lantana is a common ornamental plant. The plant has spreading stems and opposite leaves. The flowers form clusters that are flat-topped and range in color from red-orange to yellow. Lantana poses several problems to the farmer in that ingestion of the plant causes liver damage in animals, the plant inhibits the growth of other plants surrounding it (this includes grasses or other animal fodder), and this plant infests potential pastures causing a decrease in fodder for the animals.

Toxic Part: The entire plant is toxic.

Toxin: The toxic compounds are currently disputed but are believed to be lantadenes, a group of triterpenes.

Symptoms: This plant has demonstrated toxicity when ingested by cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goats. Poisoning occurs after ingestion of a significant amount of foliage (3mg foliage/kg body weight) at one time. The toxicity is not cumulative and not all species of Lantana are toxic. Symptoms of toxicity in animals include photosensitive dermatitis followed by necrosis of large areas of the skin, jaundice and yellowing of the mucous membranes, and loss of appetite with a decrease in ruminal motility. This decrease in ruminal motility may be a reaction to damage to the liver by the toxic constituents of the plant. L. camara poses several problems to the rancher in that ingestion of the plant causes hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity), the plant inhibits growth of nearby grasses and other potential fodder, and this plant infests potential pastures causing a decrease in fodder for the animals. In severe cases death may occur within two days or one to three weeks post-poisoning.

Treatment: Activated charcoal is a successful treatment for Lantana toxicity in animals.

Apparently one family lost its dog after it ingested part of the plant and others have had allergic reactions after touching the leaves.

Good information to be aware of!

Monday, July 24, 2006

These Are the Days...

I wish we had a lawn service! I've been putting off cutting the grass as long as possible so we don't have to hire someone while we're out of town. Doing it today means it will only be a little over a week until the next mowing. However, I usually don't mow in the middle of the afternoon when it's so hot (I generally like to wake the neighbors at 8 am on Saturdays).

Current Temp: 92
Mowing Index: 110

But now I can relax, wait for the rain (predicted for the next few days) and look forward to our trip.

Did I say relax? Who am I kidding? I need to figure which books to pack. Ack!

Friday, July 21, 2006


Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

Early this week it dawned on me that I hadn't seen any of the beautiful butterflies we usually get this time of year. My butterfly bushes have just begun to bloom and while filling the bird bath last night look what decided to show up! I don't know if they're later than usual or if this is the normal time, but I was very happy to see that at least one has finally made an appearance.

I still haven't seen any Monarchs like in years past. Maddie & I had so much fun chasing them all over her backyard last year, but Emily and I haven't even seen one. Maybe it's too soon. We missed the spring migration, but there's still a chance to see them this fall.

I don't know what it is about watching these beautiful, delicate creatures light on a blooming plant, but they're mesmerizing and I find myself smiling whenever they pay us a visit.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Break Time!

Current temp: 90

Since it's considerably cooler than it was this time yesterday, I really should get outside and pull some weeds (I watered last night). However, it looks like rain (YAY!) and is quite muggy. I'll just follow the advice of my favorite pinwheel and take a break & relax. We don't have any lemonade, but there's half a blender of Adirondack Margaritas in the 'frig... Nah. I better wait til Rod gets home.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Think Snow!

Current Temperature: 105 UPDATE: 108 at 4:46 pm

Heat Index: 107

Number of Days Until the First Day of Winter: 154

The Power of Positive Thinking: Priceless

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Duh, What's Up Doc?

There are some perennials you can always depend on, no matter what. Too much water. No problem. Too little water. Don't sweat it. Long, hot summer days. They love 'em. Unfortunately, there's just not a lot one can do to keep the rabbits away once they've set their tiny little minds on something to destroy. One year it might be all the Moss Rose. Another year, a newly planted Yarrow. (They always eat the blooms off my Coral Bells, but I've come to expect that.) But they've never gone near my Black-Eyed Susans. Never!

Until this year. Argh!!!!

These first two pictures were taken in the summer of 2003. Stunning color and so cheery when so many of the other plants were too tired to bloom.

This one was taken last week. The rabbits have eaten almost all the plants as they came up earlier this summer and what they didn't devour, they still managed to eat the lower stems (and I've even seen them pull the plant down so they can eat the whole thing, stem & flower).

In addition to the rabbits, the Asters have taken over quite a large portion of that bed and, while they're pretty once they start blooming, I'd much rather have lush bed full of Black-Eyed Susans.

I'll let the rabbits have their fun this year, but next spring I'm going to have to put up a chicken wire fence to keep them out. I hate to do that since it won't look very nice, but it can't look much worse than the flowers do now.

Hmm, maybe I should just get that BB gun I kept threatening to buy earlier this spring.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Heat Wave

How hot is it? Well, it was 80 degrees at 6 am and it's currently a balmy 93. Sure feels hotter (heat index of 99). At least it's not as bad as yesterday (101), but it's still miserable! These are the days when I really miss San Diego. I'd love nothing more than to drive to the beach in Del Mar and jump in the water. Instead, maybe I'll just go stand in front of the freezer.

In spite of the heat, my flowers don't look too bad. Well, except for the Impatiens and Hydrangea. They look just as I feel. But they always manage to perk up once the sun goes down. As do I. You'll find me and Rod on the back deck tonight, sipping Adirondack Margaritas.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lilium "Stargazer"

My Stargazer lilies bloomed this week! This is one of my all-time favorite flowers. I love the heady fragrance and vibrant color.

There weren't as many blooms on each stalk this year and I found one unopened bud on the ground. I wonder if they're not getting enough sun. They're in the front bed which doesn't get nearly as much sun as it used to, due to the healthy growth of the nearby crabapple tree. I think I'll plant a half dozen more this fall and move them to a sunnier location and see if that helps.

I brought two stems inside so we can enjoy them where it's nice and cool. These were Rachel's favorite flowers and every time I see them, I smile.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Come To My Garden

In spite of the unforgiving temps (both in summer and winter) of the Midwest, I have grown to love puttering in my yard, tending the flower beds as one would a young child, coaxing each plant along through its tender youth, cheering as it blooms for the first time each season, poring over books in search of solutions when it fails to thrive or is attacked by invisible pests, and weeping when it simply gives up and dies for no apparent reason (or is devoured by a wascelly wabbit!).

Gardening brings me joy and frustration, but the former makes it all worthwhile. I can spend hours lost in the mundane act of pulling weeds or deadheading spent blooms, only to return to the cool comfort of our house when I suddenly realize I've forgotten to stop for lunch. Or water. Or bug spray. It's as close to a Zen experience as I've ever come.

I hope you enjoy my photographs and ramblings. Pour yourself a cold drink, grab a hat, and join me in the garden when you get a chance.