Maryland Grows

How Invasive is Chinese Silvergrass?

Chinese silvergrass, Miscanthus sinensis, is a beautiful ornamental grass. In its native range, it inhabits disturbed areas and meadows. Here in North America, it escapes cultivation to occupy similar types of places, and, given enough time it can displace native meadow vegetation. If you have not yet had the opportunity to see how invasive this species can be, then this is your chance.

I was driving home from a meeting in Baltimore County when I started to notice occasional Miscanthus plants growing in unkempt areas along the roadside. This went on for a mile or two, and then suddenly I arrived at what quite clearly was the epicenter. The lighting was perfect, so I pulled over, grabbed my little video camera and went for a walk around the area to see how extensive the infestation might be. The footage posted here is unedited so you will see exactly what I saw on that walk.

I mentioned the Miscanthus to a friend who used to walk past this substation to get to school, and he told me Miscanthus was planted at the substation in the mid-1980s, and that it has spread a little each year ever since. Now it occupies several private properties, and as per his description “miles” of the local power lines.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, Miscanthus spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. It is very difficult to eradicate once established because even small bits of rhizome will start new plants. They also warn that it is highly flammable, and at this time of year it should be considered a fire hazard.

What about you? Do you see Miscanthus escaping in your area? Leave us a comment!

Learn more about invasive plants in Maryland.

By Sara Tangren, Ph. D
Agent Associate | Master Gardener Trainer | Sustainable Horticulture and Native Plants

5 Steps to a Chesapeake Bay-Friendly Landscape

By changing a few simple landscape practices, you can help keep Maryland waterways healthy.

chesapeake bay watershed

Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

Most Maryland residents live within a half-mile of a storm drain, stream or river. Most of those waterways eventually drain into the Chesapeake Bay.  What we do to maintain our own landscapes can affect the health of our local waterways (drainage ditches, streams, and rivers), the Chesapeake Bay, and our environment.

By changing a few simple landscape practices, you can help keep Maryland waterways healthy. The University of Maryland Extension (UME) Bay-Wise Program provides environmentally sound landscaping resources and Bay-Wise landscape certification opportunities to Maryland residents.

bay-wise logo

Many UME Master Gardeners from across the state of Maryland have been trained to educate the public about garden, landscape, and Bay-Wise best practices. UME Master Gardeners concentrate on several key Bay-Wise focus areas such as how to plant wisely, fertilize wisely, water efficiently, mulch appropriately, control stormwater runoff, encourage wildlife, and much more.

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What’s Wrong with My Blue Spruce Tree?

blue spruce with cytospora

Blue spruce with symptoms of Cytospora canker.

Dr. Dave Clement, University of Maryland Extension Plant Pathologist, explains two common diseases of this popular evergreen tree. 

Colorado blue spruce trees, although not native or adapted to Maryland, are commonly planted in landscapes for their attractive color and shape. There are, however, two plant diseases that commonly infect and disfigure them. Both diseases also can occur simultaneously and progressively speed up the decline of this popular tree.

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Heatless hot peppers

I’ve been using this current cold snap to get my seed orders together, and one thing I am planning to grow this season is a few not-so-hot peppers. Not in the “yuck, far from delicious” sense, but in the “surprisingly not setting my mouth on fire” sense. American taste buds, on average, have gone to the Hot Side during my lifetime, but not so much in the Smith household, where my husband has practically no tolerance for capsaicin (the spicy component of chili peppers) and I am not much better. But there are flavors to hot peppers that go beyond just heat, and they are worth exploring. Thanks to both older varieties and breeding of new cultivars, us heat wimps can discover them.

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Lawn and Garden Tips and Tricks for January

Fruits

  • Order fruit plants from mail-order companies in January and February for early spring planting. Select recommended, disease resistant varieties when possible and be sure you indicate a desired shipping date. For help with selecting fruit varieties refer to our fact sheets: (PDF) HG 68 “Getting Started with Small Fruits” and (PDF) HG 69 “Getting Started with Tree Fruits”.
  • Fruit plants can be pruned anytime during dormancy, between November and March. However, it is best to wait until late winter so that the full effects of winter weather can be assessed.

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Where Do Maryland’s Butterflies Overwinter?

variegated fritillary adult butterfly

Variegated fritillary butterflies overwinter as adults in warmer states such as Florida and the Carolinas. Photo: Bugwood.org

Who doesn’t love butterflies? It’s always a lift to see a butterfly or neat-looking moth flutter by on warm sunny days.

At this time of year, butterflies are but a memory. Where do they go and how do they survive our winters?

Most people are probably aware of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and their incredible migration to the warmth of Mexico each year.  There has been much discussion of their falling populations due to overwintering habitat destruction and their singular need for milkweed (Asclepias sp.) for egg laying and caterpillar food in our area during the growing season. With good habitat and plenty of milkweed, they can grow into the beautiful adults which make that long trek of 3,000 (!) miles to more sunshine. (Sounds pretty good right now, doesn’t it?)

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Q&A: How do I care for a cyclamen plant I received as a gift?

cyclamen

Q: I received a cyclamen plant at a holiday party. Can you please tell me how to take care of it?

A: Cyclamen (Cylamen persicum) are popular houseplants for the winter holiday season. These plants originate from the Mediterranean region. In their native habitat, they bloom during the cool months and then go dormant during the hot, dry summer.

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