Metro-East Living

Weed or wildflower: It’s your call

Joe Pye Weed or Asteraceae.
Joe Pye Weed or Asteraceae.

Q: Enclosed is a plant we have growing in out front yard. It’s about 8 feet tall and the stem is 1 inch in diameter. We have no idea what it is and where it came from. Is it a weed or a flower? Any suggestions what to do?

J.V. of Belleville

A: The plant parts that you sent in belong to a plant known as boneset or Joe Pye Weed. This plant belongs to the sunflower or daisy plant family (Asteraceae) which indicates a wildflower. If you find it not appealing then you can call it a “weed.” It is your choice to either destroy it or to allow the seeds to grow back next year.

Q: A number of our older oak trees are starting to show brown leaves in more than half of the leaf surface A few larger limbs fell off. We have never seen these trees do this before. Shoud we be concerned? Several other older oaks in our area are showing the same symptoms.

R.S. of Collinsville

A. This year, we experienced a large amount of rain in spring and summer and, depending upon the trees’ location, it may have flooded the roots. Oak trees in particular prefer dry soil conditions, except for the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) which demands wet soil. With dry soil conditions, the oaks depend upon a fungal relationship (Mycorrhizae — “fungus-roots”) for mineral uptake. With too much water in the soil, the mycorrhizae may die or go dormant and the plant cannot pick up enough nutrients. That may be happening to the oaks.

In most cases, when other trees start to show these symptoms, there is a suggestion to apply a fall fertilizer to the drip edge area of the tree, which is where the leaves shed rain to the outside of the leaves like an umbrella. But with oak trees, this fertilizer application can kill the wanted fungal growth and cause more stress to the tree. Collecting leaves under healthy looking oaks will contain some spores, and mulching these leaves and applying them to the root zone may re-introduce the needed fungal growth to the affected oaks.

Q: We moved this past year and brought our two seedless grape plants with us. These two plants produced small seedless grapes before. Now we have larger grapes but they have seeds. What happened?

D.K. of Columbia

A: You probably lost the top part of the grafted seedless plants and suckers from the rootstock probably took over, producing the seeded grapes. You may have pruned them back too far for the move to the new location and cut off the seedless part of the producing plant stems. You did not state where your original house’s location was and the seedless part of the grape vine may not have been hardy for our area. You could be patient and give the grapes another year to produce seedless grapes, but I do not want you to waste your time. Dig up the moved plants and purchase seedless varieties that are hardy for our plant Zone 6.

Do it now

LEAVES: Keep raking the larger leaves of oaks and maples or mulching them with a lawn mower to prevent matting down and smothering your lawn areas.