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5 Easy to Grow Mosquito-Repelling Plants

5 Easy to Grow Mosquito-Repelling Plants | Botany |

As the outdoor season approaches, many homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts look for ways to control mosquitoes. With all the publicity about the West Nile virus, mosquito repelling products are gaining in popularity. But many commercial insect repellents contain from 5% to 25% DEET. There are concerns about the potential toxic effects of DEET, especially when used by children. Children who absorb high amounts of DEET through insect repellents have developed seizures, slurred speech, hypotension and bradycardia.


There are new DEET-free mosquito repellents on the market today which offer some relief to those venturing outdoors in mosquito season. But there are also certain plants which are easy to grow and will have some effect in repelling mosquitoes from areas of your home and garden.


Here are five of the most effective mosquito repelling plants which are easy to grow in most regions of the US:


1. Citronella

Citronella is the most common natural ingredient used in formulating mosquito repellents. The distinctive citronella aroma is a strong smell which masks other attractants to mosquitoes, making it harder for them to find you. Although citronella is used in many forms, such as scented candles, torches and citronella ‘scented’ plants, the living plant is more effective because it has a stronger smell.


Citronella is a perennial ‘clumping’ grass which grows to a height of 5 – 6 feet. It can be grown directly in the ground in climate zones where frost does not occur. If grown in the garden or near the patio, it should be planted in the ‘background’, behind small decorative flowers and shrubs. In northern climate zones citronella can be grown in a large pot or planter, ideally with casters, so it can be rolled indoors during winter.


Gardening centers usually sell citronella as small plants in pots, ready to transplant to a larger pot or into raised garden beds on the ground. Once established, new plants can be propagated in early spring by splitting large clumps into smaller sections and replanting the new ‘starts’ in pots or other areas of the garden. Citronella plants are considered low maintenance, like most grasses, and they do best in full sun and well-drained locations. Periodic applications of nitrogen-rich fertilizers will ensure vigorous growth, but this treatment only needs to be applied once a year, preferably in early spring.

When purchasing citronella, look for the true varieties, Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. Other plants may be sold as ‘citronella scented’, but these do not have the mosquito repelling qualities of true citronella.


2. Horsemint

Also known as Beebalm, Horsemint is an adaptable perennial plant which repels mosquitoes much the same as citronella. It gives off a strong incense-like odor which confuses mosquitoes by masking the smell of its usual hosts.

Horsemint is a fast growing, shade-tolerant and drought-resistant plant which reaches a height and width of 2 – 3 feet. It does well in dry, sandy soil and can tolerate salty conditions, which is why it is often found in coastal and beach areas. Horsemint seeds can be sown indoors in trays for later transplanting, or sown directly into the ground in late summer in colder climate zones. Midwest and Eastern growing zones are favoured for growing horsemint.


Mature horsemint plants can be divided in spring and fall by dividing into small sections and transplanting into permanent locations. Horsemint can also be planted in pots for moving indoors in cold climate zones.


Horsemint leaves can be dried and used to make herbal tea. Its flowers will also attract bees and butterflies to your garden.


3. Marigolds

Commonly grown as ornamental border plants, marigolds are hardy annual plants which have a distinctive smell which mosquitoes, and some gardeners, find particularly offensive. Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellents.


Marigolds prefer full sunlight and reasonably fertile soil. Although marigolds can be planted from seed, starter plants are inexpensive and readily available at most garden centers. Although an annual, marigold will often reseed itself in favourable conditions, or the gardener can easily collect seeds for future germination. Established plants will need to be thinned, and flowers should be dead-headed to promote additional blooms.


Potted marigolds can be positioned near entrances to your home and any common mosquito entry points, such as open windows. The smell may deter mosquitoes from going past this barrier. While marigolds can be used as border plants around the patio, we do not advise putting marigolds on the patio table since the bright blooms may attract wasps.


Besides repelling mosquitoes, marigolds repel insects which prey on tomato plants, so you may want to plant a few marigolds in your tomato bed for added protection.


4. Ageratum

Also known as Flossflowers, Ageratum emits a smell which mosquitos find particularly offensive. Ageratum secretes coumarin, which is widely used in commercial mosquito repellents.


Ageratum is a low-lying annual ornamental plant which reaches heights of 8 – 18”, and is easily recognized by its blue flowers, although there are varieties with pink, white and violet blooms. This plant will thrive in full or partial sun and does not require rich soil. It is often displayed in rock gardens where low-lying plants are favoured.

Via Stephanie Jo Rountree
grannysheirloomseeds's curator insight, January 3, 2015 5:39 PM

Do you have #mosquito problems ? Try your hand at growing these five plants.

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Florida Native Plant Society Blog: Plant Profile: Opuntia stricta (Shell ...

Florida Native Plant Society Blog: Plant Profile: Opuntia stricta (Shell ... | Botany |
... main | skip to sidebar. Florida Native Plant Society Blog. Preserving, conserving, and restoring the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. ...

Via Carole Sevilla Brown
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Genetically modified crops and Africa’s food future - Washington Post (2013)

Genetically modified crops and Africa’s food future - Washington Post (2013) | Botany |

A recent dispatch in The Post from a village in Tanzania  foreshadowed stark choices facing Africa in the decades ahead. Journalist Sharon Schmickle, watching young children eagerly await scoops of corn and beans for lunch, described the conflict in Tanzania between those who suffer from food shortages caused by drought and pestilence and those who hold deep suspicions about the genetic engineering of crops, which might help grow more food. The doubters about genetic modifications seem to have the upper hand in Tanzania at the moment, and that is disturbing.


As a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out, genetic engineering in agriculture is not a magic bullet for Africa, but it can help battle pests and diseases, improve nutrition and reduce the use of water and chemicals, all of which would benefit farmers and their families. Genetically modified crops can increase yields, which lag in Africa behind those of the rest of the world.


African countries and research organizations in the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project, for example, have incorporated a gene from a common soil bacterium into corn, enabling plants to produce kernels even when short of water. The genetically modified corn is expected to increase yields by 25 percent during a moderate drought. Yet this corn is not being tested or planted in Tanzania. The country has adopted some of the most restrictive rules on the continent to govern genetically modified food. A policy of “strict liability” threatens companies or organizations that introduce genetically modified crops, and none has dared to bring such plants to Tanzania’s fields. Scientists are hampered and frustrated.


Africa in general has been slow to accept genetic engineering. Only four nations have commercialized biotech crops: South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Burkina Faso. Underlying the hesitation... Europe has rejected the crops, and European activists have urged Africa to follow suit. There is much talk of a threat to Africa’s “food sovereignty.” This is having some impact, however misguided. 


Smallholder farmers... are the backbone of Africa’s agriculture. They face immense difficulties. Fewer than a third of the farmers in sub-Saharan Africa use any type of improved seeds that have been developed through conventional breeding, let alone more advanced, genetically modified varieties. This is the hard reality that can’t be changed overnight by genetic engineering.


Surely, there is no harm in a vigorous debate about genetically modified food; if people don’t understand it, the benefits will never be realized. But it is a shame to abandon these crops based on irrational fears and suspicions. If Europeans choose to forego genetically modified food, they can do so without risking hunger. They ought not discourage its use for those village children in Tanzania who are hungry and at the mercy of drought.

Via Alexander J. Stein, Iker azparren
Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, November 5, 2013 8:57 PM

This is already two weeks old, but sometimes something escapes me... 


Saying that "Genetically modified crops should be part of Africa’s food future" is a bit too paternalistic; no country or people should be told what to do or not to do. But then again, that's also something activists who lobby against GM crops should heed.


As said in the text, "genetic engineering in agriculture is not a magic bullet", but it is also "a shame to abandon these crops based on irrational fears and suspicions."  

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Grassland volunteers enjoy 'best year yet' - SouthtownStar

Grassland volunteers enjoy 'best year yet' - SouthtownStar | Botany |
Grassland volunteers enjoy 'best year yet'SouthtownStarShe said many of the trees that have taken root in the area are nonindigenous and invasive to the natural plants, insects and other wildlife struggling to survive.

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Nature: What Is It Good For?

Nature: What Is It Good For? | Botany |
Protecting nature’s trove of knowledge about where we’ve come from, what we are now, and how we can deal with the challenges ahead – this is the best reason to take care of the natural world.

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