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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions  

Plant Identification: Where do I start? How do I get help? 

Using popular field guides, many woody plants (trees, shrubs, and woody vines) often can be identified based on leaf characteristics. However, flowers, fruits, or other reproductive structures are usually needed for most other plants, including wildflowers, and perennial and annual garden plants. Technical scientific keys use both reproductive and leaf characteristics.

To get started, observe as much as you can about the plant. Start with the following:

Plant type or habit: Woody (plants with perennial woody stems above ground in the winter) or herbaceous (plants that lack perennial woody stems above ground and emerge from underground stems or roots or seeds each spring). Within the woody category note whether the plant is a tree, shrub, or woody vine. Within the herbaceous category note whether the plant has a branched or unbranched stem, a leafy or leafless stem, a circle or rosette of leaves at the base, or is an herbaceous vine.

Next determine whether the leaves are arranged in an opposite, alternate, or whorled manner, whether the leaves are compound or simple, and whether the leaves or leaflets are lobed or unlobed and toothed or entire (untoothed).

If the plant has conspicuous flowers, determine whether the flowers are regular (radially symmetrical like a 4, 5, or more pointed star) or irregular (bilaterally symmetric like people--that is divisible into symmetrial right and left halves but having no other plane of symmetry).

Gardens, garden centers and herbaria often have staff members that are able to help identify plant specimens. The NC Botanical Garden has a daily community service hour from Noon to 1pm for walk in or phone in questions. You are encouraged to bring plant specimens to the Garden for assistance in identification.

Refer back to the PIC Virtual Herbarium to search our database containing information about North Carolina trees. The database includes images and descriptions of specimens from the University of North Carolina Herbarium.

For do it yourself plant identification there are many excellent reference books and keys.

• North Carolina Trees and Wildflowers : An Introduction to Familiar Plants (Pocket Naturalist) by James Kavanagh, Waterford Press, 2001

Highlights up to 150 familiar trees, shrubs, cacti, and wildflowers. Cards are laminated for durability.

• Newcomb's Wildflower Guide : An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs and Vines of Northeastern and North Central United States Vol. 1, by Lawrence Newcomb, Little, Brown & Company, 1989

A comprehensive and systematic key that relies heavily on vegetative (non-flowering) parts, 490 pages.

• Wildflowers of North Carolina by William S. Justice and C. Ritchie Bell, University of North Carolina Press, 1987

This classic guide features 408 full color photographs in a book designed for easy handling in the field. Each species description provides common and scientific names; brief notes about habitat, range size and month of bloom; and characteristics for identification. Rare and common species are included as well as native and naturalized plants, 217 pages, reprint.

• Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas by Albert E Radford, C. Ritchie Bell and Harry E. Ahles University of North Carolina Press, 1968

One of the best floras of any region. Provides complete coverage of all vascular plants of North and South Carolina. Features excellent keys, drawings, and range maps. The manual treats in detail more than 3,200 species of trees, shrubs, vines, herbs and ferns that grow without cultivation in the Carolinas. This is the established reference for professionals, students, and plant enthusiasts throughout the southeastern United States, 1183 pages.

A bibliography of Southeastern Woody Plants is available on the PIC Resources page.

What are the most common native trees in North Carolina?

The pocket manual: Common Forest Trees of North Carolina by the NC Division of Forest Resources is available on the PIC Resources page.

American Basswood
American Beech
American Chestnut
(American Elder)
American Elm
American Holly
American Sycamore
Atlantic White Cedar
Bald cypress
Bitternut Hickory
Black Cherry
Black Gum
Black Locust
Black Oak
Black Walnut
Black Willow
Other Willows
Blackjack Oak
Box elder
Carolina Ash
Carolina Silverbell
Cherrybark Oak
Chestnut Oak
Common Persimmon
Eastern Cottonwood
Eastern Hemlock
Eastern Hop Hornbeam
Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern White Pine



Flowering Dogwood
Fraser Fir
Fraser Magnolia
(Florida Anise, Anise Tree)
Green Ash
Honey locust
Live Oak
Loblolly Pine
Loblolly Bay
Longleaf Pine
Mockernut Hickory
Northern Red
Overcup Oak
Pignut Hickory
Pin Cherry
Pin Oak
Pitch Pine
Pond Pine
Post Oak
Red Maple
Red Mulberry
Red Spruce
River Birch



Scarlet Oak
(Scarlet Buckeye)
(Schumard Red Oak)
Shagbark Hickory
Shortleaf Pine
Slippery Elm
Southern Magnolia
Southern Red Oak
Sugar Maple
Swamp Chestnut Oak
Swamp Cottonwood
Sweet Birch
Table Mountain Pine
Turkey Oak
Virginia Pine
Water Oak
Water Tupelo
White Ash
White Oak
Willow Oak
Winged Elm
(Winged Sumac)
Yellow Birch
Yellow Buckeye
Yellow Poplar or Tuliptree


What endangered species are found in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture Plant Conservation Program is responsible for the listing and protection of North Carolina's endangered plants and threatened plant species.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services Division works to conserve and restore endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

SERPIN the Southeast rare plant information network is another source for information about rare species that may also be endangered.

The Center for Plant Conservation has information on America's rarest native plants that are collected, grown, and maintained by institutions in their national Member Network. The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a member institution.

What are the poisonous plants of North Carolina?

North Carolina State University has developed an extensive web site on Poisonous Plants of North Carolina.
It includes listings by common name, by scientific name and by poisonous part.
Other relevant links are provided as well.

How do I identify Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac?

Poison Ivy
(Rhus radicans) is most easily identified by its leaves which grow in groups of three. Each Poison
Ivy leaf is made up of 3 divisions or leaflets (leaves divided into leaflets are called compound leaves.) The compound leaves are borne in an alternative arrangement on the stem (leaves attached singly rather than paired or whorled). The middle leaflet is pointed and is usually slightly longer than the other two. The appearance of the leaflets varies widely from plant to plant. Leaflet size ranges anywhere from 1-4 inches. Leaves can appear dull, shiny, lobed, unlobed, toothed, or toothless.

Poison Ivy can grow in the form of a climbing vine, a trailing groundcover, or an erect shrub. When growing as a vine, the stem produces short aerial rootlets along the sides which makes the vine appear "hairy." Older vines often have the appearance of a dark, thick rope. When growing as either a groundcover or an erect shrub, the plant reaches heights of 2-7 feet.

Poison Ivy produces small yellowish- or greenish-white flowers during May-July, and drooping clusters of small, hard, white berries from August-November. The leaves turn a bright red during the Fall. All parts of the plant, including the roots, are toxic during all seasons. Poison Ivy is commonly found in woods and thickets from Southern Canada to Florida.

Poison Oak (Rhus toxicodendron) is very closely related to Poison Ivy. Many Botanists argue about how significantly different the two plants really are. Poison Oak is also best identified by its leaves which grow in groups of three. Unlike Posion Ivy, however, Poison Oak only grows as an erect shrub.

Poison Oak leaves are alternate compound. The leaflets are hairy and often lobed, and thus bearing some similarity to and oak leaf (hence the name, poison oak). The middle leaflet is pointed and is usually slightly longer than the other two. Leaflet size ranges from 1-4 inches. The plant produces flowers and fruits from May-August, and the leaves turn a bright red during Autumn. All parts of the plant are toxic during all seasons. Poison Oak is commonly found in woods and thickets from Southern Canada to Florida.

Poison Sumac (Rhus vernix) is a shrub or small tree with long, feather-compound leaves. The leaves are usually 6-14 inches long and are comprised of 7-13 pointed, toothless leaflets. The leaf stems are often red. The twigs and buds of the shrub are hairless, the bark is smooth and speckled with dark spots. The plant produces drooping clusters of small white berries from August through Spring. The shrub grows to a height of 6-20 feet. All parts of the plant are toxic during all seasons. Poison Sumac is commonly found in wooded or partly wooded swamps in southeastern Minnesota, southern Ontario, southwestern Quebec, and from southwest Maine down to Texas and Florida.

Where can I find native plants for Southeastern Gardening?

The North Carolina Botanical Garden has compiled a list of Recommended Sources of Native Plants. The Garden's Daily Plant Sale, which offers NCBG-propagated native plants and herbs, runs April through October.

Where can I get recommendations on what to plant?

First determine the characteristics of the location you want to put a plant. How much sunlight does the area receive? Does it get full, partial, or filtered sun, or full shade? What is the soil type? Has the soil been enhanced or is it a resident clay or sandy soil? How moist or dry is the location?

These are the kind of questions needed to recommend a plant for a specific location.

Gardens and garden centers often have staff members that are able to give recommendations on what to plant. The NC Botanical Garden has a daily community service hour from Noon to 1pm for walk in or phone in questions. You are encouraged to call or visit and speak with a knowledgeable staff member for assistance in plant selection.

What can I do to learn more about native plant gardening?

There are many good books available on native plant gardening through your public library or a local bookseller. The NC Botanical Garden has an extensive reference library on the premises, these books must stay on site. The garden also has many books available for sale.

Native Plant societies may be a helpful source of information on gardening with native plants. The Michigan Botanical Club provides a listing of Native Plant Societies of the United States & Canada as well as a page of native plant gardening links.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides a listing of Native Plants and Gardening Links.

I want to keep some remnants of the natural landscape in my home garden. How do I choose what plants to remove from a natural landscape versus what plants to keep?

A first step will be to know what you have to begin with. Identify or get help identifying what is already present in the natural landscape before you make the mistake of removing something unique. See the FAQ "Plant identification: Where do I start? How do I get Help?

You can consult with a professional landscape designer who specializes in natural landscape design. You can also read books and articles or attend a class on natural landscape design. A consultation should include a species identification and inventory and perhaps a soil profile.

Are there problem plants that invade a natural landscape and what can I do about them?

Invasive plants are species outside of their native range that threaten the survival or reproduction of native plants or animals or threaten to reduce biological diversity.

Invasive exotic plant species have negatively affected the natural function of ecosystems, agriculture and human health worldwide. The deliberate introductions of certain notorious invasive exotics to the southeastern United States, such as kudzu (Pueraria montana), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), bamboo grass (Microstegium vimineum), and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), continue to be disruptive; these species have naturalized to the extent that they are now inextricable from the local landscape.

For further information on invasive exotic plants visit the North Carolina Botanical Garden Invasive Exotic Plants web site.

What damages occur to trees from construction?

Trees on construction sites are injured by:
-Compaction of soil
-Removal or addition of top soil (change in grade)
-Loss or damage to roots
-Damage to trunk or leaf crown.
-Lowering of groundwater

When tree roots are removed or damaged, or fill is placed on the soil surface, trees may show decline symptoms within a few months. Symptoms include small or off-color leaves, premature fall color, extensive water sprout development on the trunk & main limbs, dead twigs and eventually dead branches.

How do you protect trees during construction?

The best way to protect trees on a construction site is to prevent, or at least minimize any changes that may cause injury through planning ahead.

Decide which trees should be saved (or perhaps transplanted) based on their nearness to the construction area, health, age, and species.

Build a barrier to keep equipment away from the remaining trees on the site. Construction fencing should be placed at the drip line of the tree, anchored as far from the trunk as possible. Visualize the tree as if the canopy were an umbrella- the drip line is where the water droplets would fall to the ground. Cabling & bracing may be needed when the stability of a large tree is compromised.

If trenching near desirable trees is necessary, tunnel under the root system rather than cutting a trench through a significant portion of the roots.

If the grade must be raised around a desired tree, construct a dry well around the tree. For maximum effectiveness, the dry well should extend to the drip line of the tree.

Consult a reputable tree specialist for advice

Site management plans can include specifics on traffic flow & parking to minimize the impact of vehicles on the environment.

How do you care for trees if you suspect damage?

If damage occurs to the root system, some of the branches of the tree should be pruned out to help bring the branch system back into balance with the root system. When part of the root system is damaged or removed, it can no longer supply the needed amount of water to the branches and leaves or needles of the tree. Removing some branches reduces the water requirement of the tree. Therefore, the pruning should be done as soon as possible after the root damage. Prune by thinning out some branches, but retain the overall shape of the tree. In general, the amount of pruning should roughly equal the estimated amount of root damage or loss. Dead branches should also be removed.

Loose or dead bark should be removed from around wounds

Fills should be removed to the dripline of the tree.

Damaged and suspected trees should be watered and fertilized properly. Fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous in about equal proportions should be used. Best time for application is in late winter. Phosphate is desired because it stimulates root growth. Nitrogen will generally increase the growth and vigor of the tree, and thus will hasten the healing of trunk scarring. However, it also stimulates foliage and stem growth which might be undesirable unless the tree is watered during dry periods, but be careful not to overwater.

Dead trees should be removed. Trees that are a hazard should be cabled or removed. On large trees, all these operations should be done by professionals

Even with prompt treatment, severely damaged trees may die. However, the sooner the treatment is begun, the better the chance of recovery.

Is my soil good for gardening?

Good soil is the most important ingredient for a healthy, successful garden. Soil is a mixture of air, water, inorganic material, minerals and decomposed plant and animal material. There are two basic types of soil, clay and sandy. Most soil is a combination of these two. Soil can be further classified by it's pH level. pH level is important to know because it affects the way plants absorb nutrients from the soil. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provide testing free of charge (see "How to get soils tested.) You can also purchase a pH test kit at a garden center for do it yourself use. The pH scale is used to measure how acidic or alkaline the soil is. If the pH level is 1 to 3, the soil is very acidic. If the soil has a pH level of 4 to 7, it is neutral. If the pH level is higher than 7, it is alkaline. Most plants prefer neutral soil but some are adapted to acidic soil or to alkaline soil. Most soils fall somewhere between the extremes and can be improved by adding specific organic nutrients or bulk to it. This is called soil conditioning.

How do I get soil tested?

The Agronomic Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) conducts soil tests free of charge for all North Carolina citizens. Soil samples must be mailed/delivered to NCDA&CS Agronomic Division, Soil Testing Section, 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh, NC 27607-6465 according to the Division's instructions.

Sampling boxes, sampling and mailing instructions, and other forms are all freely available from the NCDA&CS regional agronomists, the Agronomic Division in Raleigh, your county's Cooperative Extension Service office, or local agribusinesses. Soil test results are posted immediately over the internet.

For more details, please contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (919) 733-7125, or visit their website: http://www.ncagr.com/.

What are some tips for gardening in North Carolina Clays?

The main problem with clay soils is excessive water retention, soil compaction and limited soil aeration. The act of simply digging in these compacted soils does wonders for adding aeration, but never dig, cultivate or have traffic on clay soil that is wet.

To prevent re-occurrence of compaction, provide for adequate drainage and retain aeration. Organic as well as inorganic amendments should be incorporated into clay soil. The preferred organic amendments are composted leaves and composted ground pine bark. Composted leaves are usually quite abundant and usually free. Other desirable organic materials include animal manures and compost from your own compost pile. Peat moss, hardwood bark, sawdust, wood chips and pine straw are NOT recommended for clay soils. Using composted organic materials avoids tying up soil nitrogen during decomposition.

According to the Cooperative Extension Service, amendments to clay soil should be incorporated to at least 25% by volume or at least 2" of amendment per 6" of soil to result in 8" of amended soil, any less is a waste of time and material. Up to 50% by volume or equal parts of amendments to clay soil is beneficial. Regular additions of composted organic material will have long-term benefits. As the organic material continues to break down, the soil will become darker and easier to work with.

While organic products help greatly in holding moisture and nutrients, pea gravel (<3/8") or # 78 washed stone is useful in increasing drainage and retaining aeration. This small washed gravel is spread over the newly tilled bed to a depth of inch, then tilled or spaded into the bed. There are a number of new materials on the market to serve similar purposes such as stalite. Stalite (marketed under the name "Perma-till" is an expanded slate material that looks like pea gravel but each particle is filled with air space. Sand is NOT recommended for clay soil. In a clay soil sand and clay particles tend to interlock resulting in a soil with much worse drainage than before. Think clay + sand = bricks. Gypsum may be used to aid in retaining soil conditioning in established areas that are not tilled annually. For more information on how applications of gypsum may be beneficial visit http://www.humeseeds.com/gypsum.htm.

**The majority of this information was derived from Soils and Soils Preparation by Tony Avent, as it appeared in The American Hosta Society Journal, 1993, vol. 24, #1&2.

How do I prune and when is the best time to prune?

For general pruning, late winter is a good time to take care of most deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines.

In early spring, prune shrubs that flower in summer, broad-leaved evergreens, and all roses except climbers. Prune climbing roses in early summer.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs in late spring, right after they've bloomed. Summer or winter pruning of these plants will remove the buds and prevent flowering.

Avoid pruning in early autumn. It causes tender new growth that will be killed by cold.

Since pruning time and technique varies by plant type. It is best to use a resource such as a book or a Cooperative Extension Service publication for information on the specific plant you wish to prune.

Various southern Cooperative Extension services offer the following websites:

Pruning Ornamental Plants - Georgia CES

Pruning Woody Plants - Georgia CES

Pruning Basics and Tools - Virginia CES

Shrub Pruning Calendar - Virginia CES

Pruning Broadleaf Evergreen Shrubs-NC CES

Pruning Narrowleaf Evergreens (Conifers) -NC CES

Two other links to basic pruning information are the article Knowing when and where to cut - demystifying the process of pruning and Gardening Basics - Pruning

How do I identify and get rid of pests and diseases?

As part of your regular care, look carefully at your plants. Check all the parts: stems, leaves (both sides), flowers and fruits. Look for problems that show up as spots, holes, or bumps. Is an insect or spider living on the plant and causing damage? You might see fuzzy-looking or discolored places, and droopy leaves. Is it fungus or mildew? If you SEE a problem when it first starts, you might be able to prevent more damage and keep the plant healthy.

There are many kinds of pests and diseases, and many reference sources (people, books and web sites) to aid in identifying a particular pest or disease.

Gardens and garden centers often have staff members that are able to give advise on pests and diseases. The NC Botanical Garden has a daily community service hour from Noon to 1pm for walk in or phone in questions. You are encouraged to call or visit and speak with a knowledgeable staff member to assist you with your question about a garden pest or plant disease.

In addition, you may wish to do research and learn about common insect pests and diseases that might attack your plants. Learn more by finding and studying information sources at websites and in books. Keep these information sources handy so you can refer to them for detailed information when you need it.

The above information came from the pests and diseases unit http://www.k12.hi.us/~ckuroda/pest.htm of an E-School Project - "Simply Hydroponics"
http://www.k12.hi.us/~ckuroda/hydroponics.html on the web site of Cheryl K. Kudora, Technology and Telecommunication coordinator for Waiakeawaena Elementary School, Hawaii.

Tree disease, What is common in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources offers the following links to information about forest tree diseases that are common in North Carolina, including tips for identification and control of these diseases. Additional information and links are available at the NCDFR site.

Common Tree Diseases
Dogwood Anthracnose is a fungal disease that weakens and kills flowering dogwoods. This disease affects both woodland and ornamental dogwoods in twenty-nine counties (primarily in the mountains) in North Carolina.
Pitch Canker Pitch canker can damage many pine species, including all of the commercially important southern pines.
Annosus Root Rot is a major root rotting disease mainly in pine plantations. No North American conifer is known to be resistant.
Fusiform Rust infects stems of pine trees, resulting in weakened stems and wind breakage at the canker.
Oak Wilt is a fungal disease that infects and kills oak trees, primarily red oaks. Infected oaks typically begin to turn bronze colored and appear water soaked before prematurely shedding leaves. Oak wilt eventually leads to the death of infected trees.

Other Forest Tree Diseases

Diseases of the Southern Region is a website of the USDA Forest Service--Forest Health Protection that provides the latest information about forest tree diseases that affect the South.
Forest Insect and Disease Leaflets are technical publications developed by the USDA Forest Service that address specific tree pests, including identification and control. Most of these publications are out of print, and available only via the WWW.
Pest Alerts are one-page fact sheets about new or unusual tree pests. They are intended to alert land managers and the public about important tree pests.

Additional Information Sources
Pest Identification information How to get pest problems identified and recommendations from the North Carolina Plant Disease & Insect Clinic.

Additional information about forest insect pests in your area, contact you local County Ranger or North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Office.

How do I identify a pine beetle? What damage do they do?

The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources describes the infestation and damage wrought by The Southern Pine Beetle in North Carolina as well as mapping the affected counties and providing some illustrations. Virginia Tech has developed the Southern Pine Beetle Internet Control Center as the clearinghouse for southern pine beetle information, control strategies, and ongoing research. At this site you can find information to aid in the identification of the Southern Pine Beetle as well as other bark and wood boring beetles. To get to the identification information click on About SPB, then on Identification, then on the picture of the SPB or "Show remaining" for more details.

Tick related problems (how to remove ticks, what diseases do they cause, what is their habitat?)

Some of the following answers come from the Public Health Pest Management (PHPM), a section of the Division of Environmental Health (DEH). The page on ticks is http://www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/phpm/pages/html/ticks.html

How can I prevent a tick bite?

Tick bites are best avoided, if possible. Avoid tick-infested areas. Wear light-colored clothing, preferably long sleeves and pants, when walking through known tick habitat. Tuck pants into sock or boot tops. Apply repellents. Stick to trails in wooded areas. Check for ticks, including the scalp, frequently.

How do I remove a tick?

Remove the tick with tweezers by grasping it as close to the skin as possible and pulling at 90 degrees with a steady even pressure. The tick should not be squeezed, crushed, or punctured if possible. Avoid leaving its head embedded. After removal of the tick, wash attachment site with soap and water to disinfect. Flush the tick down the toilet or dispose of in a container of alcohol. Minimizing the length of attachment reduces the likelihood of disease transmission.

What diseases do ticks cause?

Hard-bodied ticks are carriers of several diseases that affect man and domesticated animals, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. These diseases can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. Notify your physician if you develop flu-like symptoms two to 21 days after a tick bite. For more information on these and other diseases carried by ticks, please refer to the following link: CDC: Lyme Disease

What ticks are found in North Carolina and where are they found?

American Dog Tick: Typically found in shrubby habitats, the American Dog Tick feeds on a variety of animals throughout its life cycle. Adults prefer humans and dogs as hosts. The American dog tick is not believed to be a vector of Lyme disease, although it has been found to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted fever.

The Brown dog tick: Found throughout North Carolina and feeds almost exclusively on dogs. This tick rarely feeds on people.

The Lone Star tick: Named for the single white spot on the back of the female tick. All stages of this tick feed on man and large animals, including dogs and deer.

Black-legged tick: Juveniles of this species feed mostly on snakes and lizards. The adults feed on large mammals, including dogs, deer and humans.

In any tick related problem you should always seek professional help.

How do I compost?

Here are the basic rules to follow for successful composting:

Start your compost pile in a very sunny spot, preferably someplace shielded from drying winds.

Successful compost piles are comprised of basically equal parts "brown" and "green" materials:
"Brown" materials are carbon items such as fall leaves, straw, sawdust and other dry matter. "Green" materials are nitrogen-rich items such as grass clippings, food scraps, weeds and non-woody garden prunings.

Adding a shovel full of dirt, cow/pig manure, or cottonseed meal to a new pile will help start the composting process quickly.Putting meat, grease, or other animal parts into a compost pile will probably attract rodents, may cause unpleasant odors, and can lead to a wet, slower composting process.

Smaller materials compost faster. If possible, shred or cut the material you place in your pile into 2 to 4 inch pieces.

Turn your pile often (every 5 to 7 days) using a pitchfork, shovel or aeration tool. Compost piles need lots of air to work.

Keep your compost pile very moist, like a wrung out towel. It is not uncommon to water compost piles to maintain their moisture.

Compost piles are sometimes kept inside a container, which can help keep the pile compact. A good container will allow sun and air to reach all sides of the compost pile. With consistent sunlight, moisture and aeration, your compost pile will be "done" in 2 to 4 months (i.e. the pile will look like very dark, crumbly soil full of small bits of vegetation.

How do I control deer effects?

Deer can cause serious damage to both commercial and consumer gardening and landscaping. Deer routinely damage plants by eating ("browsing") and trampling, and also by rubbing their antlers on small trees, saplings or woody shrubs. As deer lose their fear of humans, deer effects are becoming increasingly common in both rural and urban gardens. Generally, deer effects are controlled rather than ceased completely. In attempting to control deer effects in your garden, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Deer are less inclined to eat plants which are pungent or thorny. This includes shrubs such as Juniper (Juniperus chinensis), Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), and Holly (Ilex aquifolium), annuals such as Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), and Geraniums (Pelargonium domesticum), and perrenials including Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus).

Deer are more likely to ignore trees and shrubs with no low-hanging limbs or branches. Several varieties of Crabapple and Plum trees, for example, have a high canopies and often survive deer browsing.

Wrapping the trunks of saplings and ornamental trees with a commercial tree wrap can help you avoid antler rubbing damage.

Often planting an alternative food source for deer - such as lettuce - far from your yard or garden can keep deer from venturing further toward your prized plants.

Placing fencing and repellents around a garden can be effective over short periods of time. As deer become comfortable with a yard or garden, repellents become ineffective and so should be alternated. In addition to commercial deer repellents, some common repellents to hang on your garden fencing include mirrors, tin foil or other reflective surfaces, nylon stockings filled with human hair or deoderant soap, rags soaked in bloodmeal.

How do I start a water garden?

At gardenweb.com, the ponds and aquatic plants forum covers discussion on the design, construction and maintenance of ponds, as well as the subject of aquatic plants in general--how to grow them, recommendations for selections, sources for plants, etc.

Greenleaves.com offers an extensive bibliography on water gardens.

A nice article, Building a Water Garden found on the Shultz Company website, gives basic information for creating a small water garden.

What are the best wildflowers to attract butterflies?

Wildflowers that attract butterflies include Asters, Bergamots (Bee Balm), Black-eyed Susan, Blazing Stars, Coreopsis, Goldenrods, Joe Pye Weed, Milkweeds, Mints, Onions, Purple Coneflowers, Phlox, Sunflowers, Verbenas, and Yarrows.

There are also shrubs that attract butterflies such as Butterfly Bush and Lantana.

Butterflies need nectar plants for the adult butterflies as well as host plants for the larvae. To attract full time residents and not just fly through visitors, a garden should have host plants and nectar plants. The larva are particular in their feeding habits. If a suitable foodplant is not available the larva will starve rather than eat something else. Adult butterflies will usually feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, although some also have preferences.

Host plants include many species of trees, native grasses as well as some wildflowers. Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed.

Butterflies, and their host plants and nectar plants vary by region. To learn what plants support butterflies in your region you should consult a local source of information. There are many sources on the World Wide Web.

Some Great Plants for Attracting Butterflies in Central North Carolina has extensive lists of plants for both nectaring adults and host plants for larvae.

The Butterfly Farm's Butterfly Gardening Guide has a regional guide to identify the most easy to attract butterflies, nectar plants and host/larval plants for regions in the US and Canada.

The butterflywebsite.com has an extensive collection of articles on butterfly gardening.

How do I start an herb garden?

Botanically an herb is a plant with above-ground parts (foliage and stems) that die back in winter. By contrast a woody plant has persistent above-ground parts: their woody stems and trunks. Herbaceous plants are either annuals (that complete their life cycle within a year), perennials (that live longer than two years), or biennials (that live only two years --growing the first year and reproducing the second year).

Historically, the word "herb" has referred to plants used as seasoning, scent, medicine or dye. Herbs in this sense can be woody plants such as rosemary; herbaceous perennials such as thyme, sage, and mints; biennials such as chives and parsley; or annuals such as basil and dill.

To start an herb garden, you would need almost full sun, which is six to eight hours a day. You need good drainage and you need to prepare the soil. The vast majority of herbs need full sun, well-drained soil, and little in the way of fertilizer. Overly rich soil can produce lush growth, resulting in a lower concentration of the oils that produce the flavor or fragrance for which the herbs are being grown. Poorly drained soil can be corrected by incorporating coarse materials, such as sand or gravel, to a depth of one foot. Most herbs can be grown successfully in raised beds or containers. Success or failure in growing herbs can be related directly to soil preparation and sufficient sunlight.
Herbs require about the same amount of maintenance as other perennial plants. The taller ones, might need stalking, and the aggressive mints need to be contained. Weeds should be removed promptly as they compete with the herbs for light and water. Annual herbs such as basil have to be resown or replanted each year; biennials should be allowed to set seed, which can either be left to self-sow or collected and sown the following spring. Hardy perennials can remain in place in the garden. Non-hardy perennial herbs can be dug, potted and grown in a cool sunny window for the winter.

The choice of plants for a herb garden can satisfy a variety of interests such as culinary, medical, historical and those to dry for crafts. Visit gardens and nurseries and learn about the herbs you would like to grow. There are hundreds of books devoted to herb gardening so visit a library or a book store. Browse the Web, here are two web sites to get started with: Planting an Herb Garden Part One and Planting an Herb Garden: Part 2-- A Ladder Garden.

How do I grow carnivorous plants?

Different carnivorous plant species all have different growing needs. Still, there are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind when growing any carnivorous plant:

  • Plant in very acidic soil.
  • Do not use any fertilizer. Carnivorous plants are used to growing in soils that lack nitrogen and other nutrients. As a result, their roots are very sensitive and will probably be damaged by fertilizer.
  • Keep the soil very damp. If possible, water carnivorous plants with distilled water to protect the root system. The moderate or high mineral content often found in tap water can damage sensitive roots.
  • Carnivorous plants grow best in high humidity.
  • Most species require full or nearly-full sunlight.

What carnivorous plants are native to North Carolina?

There are 39 species of carnivorous plants native in the Southeast and 30 native in North Carolina. One species which is native only to North (and South) Carolina is Dionaea Muscipula, the Venus' Flytrap.

Places to hike and explore nature: Is there a list of NC State Parks?

There are several excellent NC State Park and hiking resources. A print listing of all NC State Parks - including Park locations, addresses, phone numbers and facilities descriptions - is available from the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. The listing can be requested by phone, (919) 733-7525 or email, parkinfo@ncmail.net. The Division provides other services to interested park visitors as well. Please see their website for more information, http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/index.html.

In addition, a North Carolina Visitor's Guide is available online from the NC Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, http://www.visitnc.com, and topographic maps of all NC State Parks are available from the North Carolina Geological Survey website, http://scc035.sips.state.nc.us/ncgeology/maps/state_park_maps.html.

What are County Extension Agents?

The Cooperative Extension Program was established in 1914 by the U.S. Federal Government. The Program created a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. land-grant universities. The goal of the Extension Program was to create a network that allowed USDA research findings to be passed on easily to all American farmers. The program began by establishing Extension offices in each state, and by 1941 Extension Agents worked in every rural county in the country. In 1964, Extension education programs began expanding into inner cities.

Cooperative Extension Program agents provide free soil testing and other research-based agricultural and economic information to all interested citizens.

Where are County Extension Agents?

A complete list of all the North Carolina County Extension Agent offices, including contact information, is now available over the internet: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/counties/. For more information about the Cooperative Extension Program, please contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (919) 733-7125, or visit their website: http://www.ncagr.com/.

Where can I find a list of North Carolina Public Gardens?

The American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (AABGA) provides an extensive listing of member gardens. The list is searchable by state, country, garden name, etc. To search the list, go to the AABGA homepage (http://www.aabga.org/) and select the "Member Gardens" button on the left hand side of the screen.
Two other very useful lists of both public and private NC gardens are provided by the "ilovegardens" commercial website,
http://www.ilovegardens.com/North_Carolina_Gardens/north_carolina_gardens.htm, and the North Carolina State University Department of Horticulture, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/pgpages.html.

How can I contact the Nature Conservancy? Triangle Land Conservancy??

Nature Conservancy, North Carolina Chapter:
The Nature Conservancy
North Carolina Chapter
One University Place, Suite 290
4705 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707
Phone: (919) 403-8558
Fax: (919) 403-0379
E-mail: lwinston@tnc.org
NC chapter website: http://nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/northcarolina/
National website: http://www.tnc.org/

Triangle Land Conservancy:
Triangle Land Conservancy
1100-A Wake Forest Road
Raleigh, NC 27604
website: http://www.tlc_nc.org

How can I volunteer at the North Carolina Botanical Garden?

If you live within commuting distance of NCBG and enjoy working with plants and people, you can help with one of several Garden programs by becoming one of our valued volunteers. Call the Program Coordinator at 919-962-0522 for further information.

What are the benefits of membership in the North Carolina Botanical Garden?

In addition to helping the Garden maintain the plants, fund the programs, guide conservation, support research and plan for the future, your membership contribution also provides the following additional benefits!

  • One free designated plant, available for pick-up after April 1
  • Free seeds each spring
  • 10% discount on gifts and plants
  • bimonthly Newsletter
  • invitations to special Garden events througout the year

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