Summer Victories, Surprises, and Some Good, Honest “Negative” Data
I have been doing some planting in Truassic Park, trying to coax wild things to grow where they can be enjoyed by visitors. We have plenty of invasive species, like Japanese Knotweed (that takes 10 years to eradicate), but native species are present as well. So what native plantings are here?
Beautiful Scarlet Monarda – A member of the mint family, Monarda is incredibly fragrant, attractive to hummingbirds and great for herb tea.
Mint – I transplanted a mint from private property in southern Ohio. This mint has an incredibly strong menthol fragrance. It is the first time I have gotten it to “take”. On the original property it grew in sporadic clumps.
Joe Pye Weed – otherwise known as Eutrochium . To quote wiki – “Joe Pye (Jopi in the Native tongue), an Indian healer from New England, used E. purpureum to treat a variety of ailments, which led to the name Joe-Pye weed for these plants. Folklore says that Joe Pye used this plant to cure fevers. Folklore also states that American colonists used this plant to treat typhus outbreaks.  The author Hemmerly writes that the Indians used Joe Pye Weed in the treatment of kidney stones and other urinary tract ailments.” I planted a modern variant – a chocolate Joe Pye Weed. It is a plant that grows quite tall and loves to be near water. You can find it on the shore of our Viers Ditch Creek.
Eastern Purple Coneflower – another medicinal plant used by both Native Americans and early settlers. You may know it better as Echinacea.
Blueberries – have doubled in size along the bank of the creek
Jack in the Pulpit – bloomed in the early spring. I was so happy to know it survived being transplanted on the property from a commercial source.
Equisetum – Known as Calamites in the fossil record, and as horsetails as a common name, this plant used to grow to incredibly heights of 100 ft. It currently only grown to be a few feet tall. Planted in pots to keep it from overtaking the park, it is surviving quite well.
Boneset – not a plant that I transplanted, but one I have hovered over to help it survive. Although not currently advised as an herbal remedy, historically it was used to reduce fevers.
Jewelweed – is plentiful in many locations throughout Ohio and is in no danger of disappearing here at Truassic Park. Juice from the stem of the jewelweed is often used to deal with poison ivy exposure. I am so grateful that they often grow together. I wonder if that is a coincidence. : )
Paw Paw – Hopefully, this new addition to the park will thrive for many years to come. The Paw Paw is our native Ohio fruit. The large, yellow fruits were a favorite of George Washington and taste like a banana/mango/cantelope? We will need to obtain another variant of our Shenandoah Paw Paw in order to set fruit. The Paw Paw is also the exclusive food of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly. In evolutionary circles, this is described as a “co-evolution” situation where two different organisms had to both somehow, through random chance changes, morph to exist as they do today with the butterfly totally dependent on this plant to exist. In creation circles, this is a wonderful example of a symbiotic relationship where one organism is provided with a specific plant as its food source. Paw Paw is also a “living fossil”.
Surprise – I found some bright orange horns sticking out of the ground in our native flower area and included a photo for you. I learned that they are the fruiting body of a fungus group known as the dog stinkhorns.
And now for the Good Honest Negative Data:
I have been conducting an experiment here at the museum by growing sweet potatoes on the roof. The original goal was to test the feasibility of cooling off the roof with sweet potato vines while growing some extra food. This is not a unique idea. There have been studies done in Japan and there have also been plenty of folks in the U.S. working at growing veggies on the roofs of homes and businesses.
To give you a short summary at this time:
The plants have survived, but not thrived to the point of cooling off the roof. The positive aspect of this is that the plants needed less care than I expected. The negative is that I do not have a roof covered in vines.
It is too early to tell if we will get sweet potatoes.
I am sharing this so that if you dream of planting on your roof, you have some good “negative” info to help you make a good decision. A more detailed summary will follow at a later date.
Thanks to the help of volunteer Kevin Stoner, we have a much more accessible Research Library where staff and visitors can read the latest journal articles as well as thumb through some vintage creation literature. The library is also equipped for viewing dvds. Although we are not equipped to loan out materials to anyone other than staff at this time, please feel free during your visit to ask about enjoying the library and see what you have been missing.
Written by Cindy Julius