<span>June 2018</span>

  • Twelve Poisonous Plants to Avoid

    If there’s one thing that’s naturally plentiful in the state of Florida, it’s flora. In fact, the name of the state is derived from the Spanish word for flowers, courtesy of Juan Ponce de Leon. What the explorer observed gave him the inspiration for the namesake and it’s well deserved, given the amount of sunshine and warm weather. Among all that plant life lurk several unpleasant surprises, toxic plants, which pose a health hazard to people and pets.

    In fact, when broken down according to sources, plants are the 14th on the list of poisonings in the whole state, raking-up an astounding number of cases, which are approximately 2,600 to 2,700 per year. That number is only behind sedatives, cosmetics and anti-depressants, but ahead of vitamins, food and antibiotics. Of course, this means that too many people are exposed to toxic plants and it’s not unusual to find some of these right in your own yard.

    Invasive Plant Species that Take Over Your Backyard

    What’s more, plants can not only be poisonous, but also invasive. The qualifiers of invasive plants are ones which have a high tolerance for different climates, possess multiple reproductive methods, have a large broadcasting system, grow rapidly, and resist active management. Basically, what you think about weeds applies to these type of plants, they never seem to go away and spread, regardless of what you do.

    The dazzling foliage of South Florida, both natural and landscaped, contains dozens of species that can hurt you. With its warm year-round climate — the last couple of weeks being the exception — South Florida provides a welcoming home to a vast variety of native and non-native plants containing substances that can irritate skin, damage eyes, slow the pulse, initiate seizures and cause organ failure. —Sun Sentinel

    According to the University of Florida, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, the most invasive plants in the Sunshine State, including Sarasota, are as follows:

    • Aquatic soda apple (solanum tampicense)
    • Giant salvinia (salvinia molesta)
    • Hydrilla (hydrilla verticillata)
    • Hygrophila (hygrophila polysperma)
    • Napier grass (pennisetum purpureum)
    • Torpedograss (panicum repens)
    • Water hyacinth (eichhornia crassipes)
    • Water lettuce (pistia stratiotes)
    • Water spinach (ipomoea aquatica)
    • West Indian marsh grass (hymenachne amplexicaulis)
    • Wild taro (colocasia esculenta)

    Twelve Poisonous Plants to Avoid Putting in Your Landscape

    Your yard might look beautiful with all its colorful plants and flowering plants, but it might contain some toxic ones, which include the following:

    1. Bittersweet nightshade. Purple and yellow, complete with colorful berries is bittersweet nightshade. An invasive plant, it’s also a toxic one and one that is attractive to young children, which makes it a dangerous combination.
    2. Foxglove. Beautifully white and lushly green, foxgloves are among some of the most common plants in yards across the country. These flourish in dry shade areas, but are dangerous to small children.
    3. Laurels, azaleas, rhododendrons. All of these are toxic and not only to people, but to domestic pets, as well as livestock. Their beauty can’t be denied, but these are deadly and not a good choice for your landscape.
    4. Castor beans. This annual does well in northern climates and is a tropical plant. It also serves as the source of the toxin ricin, a poison that’s earned its name in news events and official warnings.
    5. Yew shrubs. Able to grow in either shade or sun, Japanese yew shrubs and English yew bushes, these can be found in areas where other plants have trouble flourishing. The bright, red berries conceal a seed which is poisonous.
    6. Poison sumac. The name tells it all and yes, poison sumac is, well, toxic. Unlike the previously listed entries, which must be ingested in some way to be poisonous, poison sumac need only be touched.
    7. Poison ivy. Like sumac, this plant is toxic to the touch and is poisonous because of an oil known as urushiol. What makes poison ivy so dangerous is how inconspicuous it is, not having any outstanding flowers to make it easy to spot.
    8. Easter lily. These white trumpets are toxic, especially so to feline family members. Unfortunately, these are quite common, in-part because of their heady perfume scent, which make them more than just visually attractive.
    9. Stinging nettles. Just like poison sumac and poison ivy, stinging nettles will give your skin a real sting if your brush up against them. Containing tiny spines, which induce rashes, these can be a real pain to rid your yard of but it’s necessary for them to go.
    10. Yellow dock. According to the ASPCA, yellow dock is considered toxic to canines, and is not safe for dogs.
    11. Lantana. With its colorful clusters of orange, red, and yellow, lantana is very attractive, but also invasive and toxic, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
    12. Lily-of-the-valley. Commonly found as wedding embellishments, looking a bit like chapel bells, these plants are poisonous.

    If any of these exists in your yard, you ought to pull them out and replace them with something else.

  • Getting Rid of Waterfall Algae

    If you have a waterfall to make your landscape truly elegant, you’ve no doubt seen something that’s not so savvy floating in the water and creeping up the stone or brick walls. That unsightly growth is algae and you certainly don’t want your beautiful water feature to play host to something so ugly and unhealthy.

    It’s often an unpleasant reality, you have a wonderful waterfall put in your yard, and enjoy the sound of the streaming water, along with the relaxing and memorizing sight of it cascading into a pool. The awe reaches a new level after the sun goes down, when you can watch the water dance under the colorful lights.

    Algae isn’t supposed to be part of the picture and the longer you wait to do something about it, the more it will overtake your waterfall, covering everything eventually. Left unchecked, it will also leave colored stains, which are quite difficult to remove. The quicker you act, the less of a task it will be to rid your waterfall of the growth, so, time is of the essence.

    Proper Outdoor Water Feature Maintenance

    When you had the water feature installed, you were probably told that it would require regular maintenance. That includes changing out the filter, keeping an eye on the volume of water flow, occasionally checking for leaks, and monitoring the water level in the pond at the base. You should be emptying your skimmer basket regularly every two weeks. Take a few minutes to empty it and check its condition. Should it be brittle or have holes, it’s time for to put in a replacement.

    Where there is moisture, sunlight and organic material, algae is typically present. Waterfall maintenance should include controlling and preventing algae. Algae need nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, and sunlight to form. These nutrients typically enter a pondless waterfall in the form of decaying leaves and plants or lawn fertilizers. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Occasionally, you might see the water flow drop, and that’s usually do to a pump that’s becoming clogged. Over time, debris will collect at the bottom of the part, so, you’ll need to turn off the power, and disconnect the pump. Clean out any and all debris, rinse it out to ensure you’ve got all those tiny pieces. During the late fall and winter months, the tropical storms of the summer and first months of fall will fall off, and fewer rain showers will creep over the Sarasota coast. Because the sun will continue to shine brightly, your pond is likely to experience a bit of water loss. That’s a simple fix, drop the end of a garden hose into the pond, turn on the spigot, and fill it again.

    Effectively Getting Rid of Waterfall Algae

    Dealing with algae is an ongoing battle you’ll have to wage. It’s not as simple as set it and forget it, but it can be greatly mitigated so it isn’t a constant problem that needs attention. There are three types of algae: green water, string, and filamentous. The first typically floats freely in the water and only when it grows large, is visible. String algae resembles long, green hair, and will overtake everything it touches. It will not only grow over things, it will get into every nook and crevice. Filamentous algae is definitely the most unsightly, looking much like green, clumpy vomit.

    When you begin to notice algae forming in your waterfall pond, it will steadily grow unless you stop it from doing so. Here are some ways for getting rid of waterfall algae:

    • Add water lettuce to your pond. Plants such as water lettuce do something that effectively combats algae from growing, deprive it of precious nutrients. Algae needs “food” to grow, and if you introduce quick-growing, or large-growing plants, those will soak up the nutrients, keeping algae from forming.
    • Pull the weeds at the roots. For string algae, a simple, but wet, way to get rid of it is to do what you would in a garden or planter, pull the weeds. Grab the largest clumps of string algae by the roots and steadily pull them out. Don’t yank the roots though, or they might break and reform over time.
    • Drop in Koi fish. Koi fish do pretty much the same thing as water lettuce, they eat nutrients and are also quite fond of eating things like algae and can quickly cut it down. The trick is to feed Koi less, keeping them from being overfed. If you do, they’ll remain hungry and eat what’s naturally being provided.
    • Apply an algae control agent. Of course, an algae control agent is also a way to get rid of growth. Apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and let it do its job.

    Once you’ve rid the pond of it, use a brush to brush away any remnants.