The stuff of horror movies is in your garden; meat eating plants, larvae that devours you from within, birds that attack you. They are the inspiration of movies such as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Birds” and many space alien invaders developing within your body. The bird that attacked you was because you were too near its nest or perhaps a seagull stealing your funnel cake or Alfred Hitchcock’s inspiration.
Do you notice a rotting stench that smells like rotting meat in your garden? It’s not a corpse or even the manure for the garden. It’s the stinkhorn fungus, Clathrus columnatus. It’s actually helping decompose organic matter for your garden. The smell is temporary or you can pick up the white egg stage and seal it in your garbage.
Florida has several meat-eating plants or rather bug eating plants. Carnivorous plants in Florida are the sundews, butterworts, bladderworts and pitcher plants. They require very specific growing conditions. They are endangered, so don’t remove them from the wild. More information on pitcher plants, Sarracenia species can be found at: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/UW378.
Parasites like fleas and ticks just feed on their hosts. It’s the parasitoids that inspire the horror movies. They are the ones that eventually kill their hosts. There are two types of parasitoids: endoparasitoids which hatch within the host and feed and develop within the host and ectoparasitoids which are attached to the outside of the host and suck out the body fluids. As gardeners, we really appreciate the beneficial parasitoid insects. They help keep the insects that damage our gardens under control. To increase their numbers, plant a variety of plants, including ones with small flowers, like dill and parsley. Avoid broad spectrum pesticides as they indiscriminately kill both the undesirable insects and their predators. The University of Maryland has a great article on parasitoids: https://extension.umd.edu/resource/parasitoids
What’s really scary in Florida are the aliens that have invaded. The Florida citrus crop is under attack by citrus greening, Huanglongbing or HLB, which is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. More information can be found here: Citrus Greening – UF/IFAS Extension: Solutions for Your Life (ufl.edu) Burmese pythons are a threat to native wildlife in south Florida. Cuban tree frogs are showing up in northeast Florida and are displacing our native tree frogs. Some of these invasive insects and animals hid in cargo, others were exotic pets that were turned loose. Don’t turn your exotic pet loose. Zoos will sponsor take ins.
Alien invaders can be plants as well. Invasive non-native plants can displace our native vegetation and the creatures that depend on it. Vines that can creep over trees and acres of land. Plants that seed profusely and spread by rhizomes. Air potatoes, Brazilian peppers, Mexican petunias are just a few. Check out any plant you are considering adding to your landscape at https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/.
Normally our yards and gardens are our refuge, a place of peace and tranquility. We can do our part by keeping the alien plants and animals away.
‘Your Creepy Scary Garden’ was written by MGV, Brenda Daly, and is expected to appear in the Time Union on October 29, 2022.