Friday, May 05, 2006

Empress Flowers and Ground Beetles

It is amazing what you can miss if you never get out of your car and take a walk. I have lived in Hoopa for nearly ten years and I never noticed that there was an Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) growing happily right in downtown Hoopa. I noticed it as soon as I rounded the corner from Ray’s that used to be Century, that is soon to be something else. The large panicles of dangling purple tubular flowers took my breath away.

Turns out the owner of the tree didn’t know exactly what he had, but gave me permission to collect some of the seed pods. Those pods are showy in themselves . . . When I got closer to the tree, which was in full bloom, I was very excited to see that the tree was well inhabited by quite the colony of Ground Beetles. I have been doing some research on beneficial insects for an up coming article, with particular attention being paid to the predators of slugs. Slugs are my nemesis, my on going hair pulling challenge and tragedy. Ground beetle larva are some of the most voracious annihilators of baby slugs you can hope for. And here was a tree covered with the adults.

I scooped up my seed pods, picked a couple of leaves for positive ID of the tree, and when to ask the owner (who is a gardener) a simple question, “Do you have slugs?”

“None to speak of,” was his answer, “I do have a few snails, but no slugs to speak of.” Bingo!!! Now how many people do you know who live in the Pacific Northwest who can say they have no slugs to speak of? Before today I knew exactly zero. Now I know one, and I have seeds for the trees that might attract those lovely little beetles!

Wish me luck . . .

And stay tuned, more on beneficial insects will be coming up in a few weeks.



gardenin' guy said...

Just be real careful where you plant these things because they not only can heave and break sidewalks and patios with their very fast growing surface roots, they can also crack house foundations and walls.

Harvest said...

Hey Gardening Guy . . . that is a good point--depending on where you live. In Hoopa--where the article was written the Empress trees are lucky to even survive. But in warmer areas they can be a problem when planted near sidewalks or buildings, and in frost free areas that have plenty of rainfall they can actually be invasive . . .