Desert Danelion

Desert Dandelion Blooming

Desert Dandelion Going to Seed

Desert Dandelion Going to Seed

This is becoming a more common question as people are interested in creating pollinator habitat and conserving water by using plants adapted for the local climate. At the Lyon County University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office, we are starting our own native plant garden to create a teaching garden and native pollinator habitat. Marcia started by using the native Desert Dandelion, Malacothrix glabrata, that was naturally growing in front of our office. She kept them weeded to avoid spraying herbicide and reduce competition. The building and the trees shade them, so we have small plants. Desert

Desert Dandelion Seed Head

Desert Dandelion Seed Head

Dandelion can be larger when grown in full sun. As they go to seed, we collect the seeds in a small paper envelope to let them dry. Next spring, we will plant the collected seeds to expand our patch.

Native plants are great for Lyon County gardens. In recent University of Nevada Cooperative Extension special publications “Flowers at the Borders” and “Penstemons are for Great Basin Gardens” have recommendations for native plants to include in your garden. Your native garden can also help native pollinators by providing habitat, like native milkweeds, or as pollen and nectar sources. Do not collect seeds from natural areas or areas where you do not have permission to collect seeds. Not all pretty flowers are beneficial, some can be noxious weeds. Make sure you know what plants you are spreading before moving plants or seeds.
Have a native plant that you want to know more about? Send me a picture! patersonj@unce.unr.edu

Asclepias fascicularis

Asclepias fascicularis

“What kind of plant is this? Is it native?” a Lyon County resident asked as we strolled past a flower garden during a farm visit. Virginia explained that she recently started growing a flower garden here and was not sure what it was. She did not want to keep it if it was a weed. I snapped this quick photo with my phone and told her that it was a milkweed, but that I would key it out and see if I could tell her more about it.

Based on what I could key from the photo, I identified it as Asclepias fascicularis, a narrowleaf milkweed. Milkweed plants are valuable habitat for Monarch butterflies and can be a great edition to your native plant flower garden. Xerces Society has great information on native plants and pollinators with a publication on Great Basin Native Milkweed.

Consider including milkweed plants in your flower gardens. Native milkweeds require less water than some other garden flowers. Anticipate that they might spread easily and remove seed pods prior to seeding to contain them. If you see monarch butterfly larvae, let them eat the milkweed and do not spray them with pesticide. Monarch butterflies have experienced a drastic loss in habitat. You can help by planting milkweeds in your garden in a pesticide free space.

Have a native plant that you want to know more about? Send me a picture! patersonj@unce.unr.edu

Joy Paterson assists Ray Johnson in releasing bindweed mites into a patch of bindweed

Joy Paterson assists Ray Johnson in releasing bindweed mites into a patch of bindweed

Never heard of bindweed? It is a vining plant with white and pink flowers. Field Bindweed has an expansive rhizome network underground where the plant can reestablish after mechanical or chemical treatments. The weed is not a common weed problem to have in Nevada, however, it is a common contaminant in seed and can cause economic loss and out-compete desirable vegetation once established. Ray and Virginia Johnson with Custom Gardens understand this all too well.
They contacted the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension to obtain information about biological control of bindweed. We directed them to our recent update of “Biological Control Options for Invasive Weeds in Nevada”. Ray and Virginia contact Nevada Department of Agriculture, who did not currently have a program for biological control of bindweed.

Ray with marked releases of bindweed mite

Ray with marked releases of bindweed mite

After contacting USDA-APHIS and obtained the necessary permits, they have received two species, a moth and a mite, with two releases of mites and one release of moths.
I was able to come out and help them with one of the mite releases. Ray and Virginia understand that biological control efforts require years if effort to control, so this is a fight that they will continue over the next few years. We are working together to find additional agent sources and I will stop back by this fall to check for establishment.