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Tag Archive | "leaves"

Palmate, Pinnate, Toothed, Entire


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Look at your palm to notice your hand bones radiate from one basal area at your wrist outward to finger tips. Spread your fingers to make it more obvious. This pattern is called palmate. Think of the ribs branching from your spine and how they wrap around your chest in vertical rows. This pattern is like leaflets branching outward from a central shaft called the rachis on plants with compound leaves like roses, walnut trees, or sumac shrubs. 

Palmate, pinnate, toothed, entire, simple, and compound are few easy leaf characteristics to use to identify trees, shrubs, and other plants. Now is great time pick up leaves from the ground to enjoy the beauty of colors and to notice a variety of characteristics. Maybe you will want to pile leaves while raking, bury the kids, or even flop into the pile yourself. Take time to have fun with family and do things the kids or grandkids might not expect.

Imagine their surprise if grandpa gets into a pile of leaves with the kids. It will probably be even more surprising to grandpa’s kids than to the grandkids. When in the pile, have each family member pick a leaf and see how many colors can be found. Don’t miss the shades of tan, brown, yellow in addition to red, orange, green, and even black. 

If you are raking maples, the leaf veins will be palmate like the bones in your hand. Apple leaf veins will be pinnate and branch from a straight midrib that runs up the center of the leaf. On the abundant dogwood shrubs or dogwood trees, pinnate veins will branch from the central midrib, but veins curve toward the leaf tip. It is best to look at the underside of leaves where veins are more evident.

Beginning with a few leaf characteristics will make it easier to distinguish different plants. It is not even necessary to learn the names of the various plants. Simply enjoy different patterns and recognize how to separate them. 

Leaves might have teeth along the edge of the leaf blade. Teeth are sharp pointed projections along the edge. Some teeth are straight but cherries have curved teeth. There are plants with doubly serrate teeth. They are alternating teeth with one being large followed by a smaller one in a repeating pattern. The leaf blade might have a smooth untoothed edge from its base to the tip and is referred to as having an entire edge. 

Fallen leaves can be a bit tricky. Those with compound leaves tend to fall in pieces. Look at plants that have not dropped their leaves. The sumac shrubs still retain bright red compound leaves making them easy to find even when they are on the ground. To recognize if a leaf is compound, one needs to locate the leaf bud at the base of the leaf. Leaflets do not have a bud at the base of the leaflet.

On the sumac or walnut, there is a main leaf shaft called the rachis with pinnate leaflets branching from it. Look closely to notice there are no buds at the base of the leaflets. One needs to follow farther back to discover the bud at the base of the compound leaf where it attaches to the shrub branch. 

Bitternut hickory trees have compound leaves with fewer pinnate leaflets branching from their rachis than the sumac shrubs or walnut trees. The hickory drops leaflets individually while the walnut drops the leaf as a whole unit. Bitternut leaves become yellow while walnuts leaves fall green. 

The difference between simple and compound leaves is based on whether there is a bud at the base of the single leaf blade or whether the bud is at the base of a leaf having many leaflets. Spend time enjoying leaf characteristics in nature niches this fall and help family members experience the variety growing around the yard. 

Make raking leaves more than work. Make it an adventure into the mysteries of the living space you share with plants. There is more to enjoy in fall than the color change. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Leaf Experiences


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The best learning is a family experience with fun. I was raking leaves and thought about my girls helping or thinking they were helping. Then I thought about when I helped my dad rake leaves or thought I was helping. What I remember best from both experiences is that I jumped into the pile of leaves and buried myself and my girls jumped into the leaf pile and buried themselves.

A difference in our experiences was what happened to leaves—Earth Stewardship. In the 1950’s people up and down the block raked leaves into the road and burned them. My girls learned leaves make good compost and should not be burned. As mulch they decay and release nutrients into the soil or garden rather than into the air. We used leaves to spread on trails at Ody Brook to prevent dirt from getting in the soles of shoes.

A great experience helps kids observe the intricate natural world. They see details and gain basic knowledge, comprehend what they experience, apply experiences to life at home and in the community, analyze what is best, synthesize what they experienced to use for new unrelated purposes, and then evaluate the value.

The experience allows discovery. I did a leaf activity with students when I was classroom teacher and at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. In fall we found a sugar maple and each student collected ten leaves and then we found a silver maple and collected ten more leaves.

In the process the students learned to distinguish leaf similarities and differences for the two species. Learning more about adaptations for the species took us deeper into reasoning and mental development. Students compared the amount of substance in the two kinds of leaves to discover that silver maple leaves were lighter with less substance. They curled and shrivel more than the heavier sturdy sugar maple leaves. We weighed the leaves and found sugar maple leaves were heavier.

I shared that sugar maple leaves do not remove most of the nutrients from the leaves but allow nutrients to fall to ground in the leaf, where they rot under the tree to release nutrients for the tree’s use in spring. Silver maples ship a greater proportion of nutrients to the roots with the sap, and store it until spring for new growth. Both species have unique nature niche strategies for recycling nutrients. Silver maples are floodplain trees and their leaves wash away with spring flooding so nutrients would be lost if dropped with leaves. Sugar Maples are upland plants and their leaves stay near the tree and release nutrients to their own roots.

My dad, like most other dads, did not realize that releasing nutrients into the air by burning leaves contributes to air pollution and increased atmospheric carbon. I like fires and “some-mores” so we burn branches cleared during trail maintenance and make our “some-more” treats. We allow many to decay in the woods to replenish soil health. Most nutrients are in the small branches that decay rapidly so we leave those in the woods and burn some larger branches. We use large branches for brush pile construction for bird and mammal shelters.

Create family experiences and build relationships. Our kids are grown but I still desire help with projects at Ody Brook. I can use the help but more importantly I think it continues to build our relationship. Of course, their lives are full and busy but sometimes we still build relationships working together outdoors.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Six Steps to a Beautiful Landscape Next Season


_AWE-Six-steps-Recycling_Leaves

by gardening expert Melinda Myers

 

Don’t let a busy schedule stop you from creating a beautiful landscape. Incorporate a few of these changes in your fall landscape care. You’ll create beautiful results with a limited investment of time and effort.

Cut the grass, recycle fall leaves, and improve the soil with a pass of the lawn mower. Shred leaves and leave them on the lawn as you mow this fall.  As long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine. As the leaves break down they add organic matter to the soil, improving drainage in clay soil and water holding ability in sandy soil. As an alternative, use excess leaves as soil mulch. Shred the leaves with your mower and spread a layer over the soil to conserve moisture and insulate the roots of perennials. Fall mulching gives you a jump on next spring’s landscape chores.

Improve your lawn’s health by fertilizing this fall with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite. You’ll reduce the risk of disease problems and with slower weed growth in fall, your lawn, not the weeds, will benefit from the nutrients. Fall fertilization also helps lawns recover from the stresses of summer by encouraging deep roots and denser growth that can better compete with weeds and tolerate disease and insects. Northern gardeners can follow the holiday schedule and fertilize Labor Day and Halloween. Southern gardeners should make their last fall fertilization at least 30 days before the lawn goes dormant or the average first killing frost to avoid winter kill.
Do a bit of planting. Cool season annuals brighten up the fall garden and, for those in warmer regions, the winter garden. Consider adding cold hardy pansies. They provide color in the fall garden, survive most winters, and are back blooming in the spring just as the snow melts.
Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. The soil is warm and the air cooler, so the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and be sure to give them plenty of room to reach their mature size.
Plant daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other bulbs in fall for extra color next spring. Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height deep. Then cover them with soil and sprinkle on a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer. This type of fertilizer promotes rooting without stimulating fall growth subject to winter kill. Base your bulb planting time on the weather not the calendar. Start planting after the night-time temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees. Be patient, waiting until the soil cools reduces the risk of early sprouting that often occurs during a warm fall. Those gardening in the far south and along the gulf coast can purchase pre-cooled bulbs to compensate for the warm winters. Or the chilling can be done at home by storing the bulbs in a 35 to 45 degree location for at least 14 weeks before planting.
Leave healthy perennials standing for winter. This increases hardiness and adds beauty to the winter landscape with their seed heads, dried foliage and the birds they attract. Plus, it will delay cleanup until spring when gardeners are anxious to get outdoors and start gardening. However, be sure to remove any diseased or insect-infested plants to reduce the source of pest problems in next year’s garden.
Start composting or add shredded leaves and other plant debris to an existing compost pile. Combine fall leaves with other plant waste, a bit of soil or compost, and sprinkle with fertilizer to create compost. Recycling yard waste saves time bagging, hauling and disposing of green debris. You also reduce or eliminate the need to buy soil amendments to improve your existing garden soil.

Incorporate one or all six of these practices to increase the health and beauty of your landscape now and for years to come.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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