Saturday, November 15, 2014

Velvetleaf in Kansas

By the second week of November, a high pressure in the Pacific Ocean pushes the Polar Vortex from its home in the Arctic down into to the Midwest and Kansas.

Kansas Velvetleaf, seed pod
It is bitter cold and the last few butterflies and insects of summer and fall have been silenced. If there is a benefit to this cold, it is that the freezing temperatures push back against the invasive species that are non-native to Kansas.

Velvetleaf, Sedgwick County, Kansas, winter

One such invasive species is the Velvetleaf, a Chinese native plant introduced to the Americas in the nineteenth century that unfortunately has adapted to the cold temperatures of Kansas. The plant is opportunistic, finding its way to farm fields and disturbed sites by birds. Eventually, because of its height and because of the shade from its leaves, it will out compete more desirable plants.

Velvetleaf, winter, Kansas

Handicrafters will use the seed pods for potpourri. The Chinese use the Velvetleaf plant as a homeopathy to treat ailments such as stomachaches, fever, and dysentery. The stalk produces a strong fiber, China jute, used in the making of rugs. But American farmers find the Velvetleaf in the fields significantly reduce the yield of corn and other crops.

Velvetleaf, seed pod

Kansas currently restricts Velvetleaf (9 per pound) that may be hitchhiking in other seed packages.

Velvetleaf, Kansas, winter

Velvetleaf, seed pods

Velvetleaf, seed pods

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