Gardening and horticulture news and tips, as well as agricultural information from Amanda McNulty, the host of SCETV's "Making It Grow" and Clemson University Extension Agent. Produced by South Carolina Public Radio.Making It Grow Minutes are produced by South Carolina Public Radio, in partnership with Clemson University's Extension Service.
Making a Pollinator-Friendly Mulch Pile
At the Xerces Society’s page on Building a Better Mulch pile they tell us that thirty percent of our native bees are cavity nesters while 70 percent nest in the ground. The USDA Agroforestry Notes --Enhancing Nesting Sites for Native Bee Pollinators --has tips to make your yard part of the movement to protect these insects – very few of whom are social and therefore defensive. Elderberry, boxelder, and raspberry and blackberry canes support the cavity nesters while bare or very lightly mulched areas of ground can serve as areas where ground nesters can lay eggs. Ground wood mulch, popular because it lasts so long, is a poor choice for a pollinator friendly yard. Try to let your mulch mimic the leaf litter you find in forests – mulch your fallen leaves and save space in landfills.
Elderberries Are Mostly Wind Pollinated
Professor Greg Reighard, Clemson researcher and international fruit specialist, explained that elderberries are primarily wind-pollinated. Although the flowers are extraordinarily showy, which you think would be a sign that they are attracting all sorts of pollinators, they don’t produce nectar so insect visitors are only collecting pollen. Still, their value to wildlife is high as the hundreds of dark purple fruits that each flower head produces are devoured by over 45 species of birds and racoons among others -- the Missouri Department of Conservation reports that a sharp-eyed naturalist even saw a box turtle eating fruits. But for people the entire plant contains compounds toxic to us, so this is one plant that grazers should not eat in the field. But properly prepared with heat, their berries have long been safely used for pies, wines and jellies.
Elderberries Are Only Safe to Eat After Cooking
All parts of the plants have compounds that are toxic to humans (not native wildlife). Fortunately, heat destroys the dangerous chemicals the seeds in the ripe fruit contain so you can make delicious wine or pies with them.
Elderberries Plants Are Blossoming
Elderberry bushes with their bold, textured leaves are now topped with broad flower heads filled with hundreds of small white blossoms, destined to become tasty dark purple fruits.
Backpacks for Birds
To discover where prothonotary warblers spend their winters, Beidler staff devised an ingenious system. Several birds, weighing about half an ounce, have been fitted with tiny backpacks that record information about where they go. The devices don’t transmit coordinates, they would be too heavy. This system is dependent on having some of the birds, with their site fidelity, successfully making the trip south and returning to the place of their birth. Then they’re trapped, the backpacks removed, and information retrieved.
Migration Patterns of the Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary warblers have strong site fidelity. Although they have a large nesting area in the US, individual birds return to the place of their birth.