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Gaura Biennis for Japanese beetle

 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Our neighbor said Japanese beetles are going crazy in her garden.  I am new to permaculture, still trying to make it through my first book, but this year I did not mow except for our pathways.  I wanted to see what would come up and how it worked this year.  The 3 garden plots on the bottom are surrounded by queen anne's lace, red & white clover, mullein, butterfly weed, roses, bull thistle, comfrey, lemon sorrel and all sorts of other flowering and not yet flowering plants.  There is a plant that grows all around the gardens and is LOADED with japanese beetles, yet they do not bother our garden.  Those leaves look horrible and are really being eaten.  Does anyone know what this wonderful plant is?  I doubt it's called Japanese beetle ice cream plant ;-p  I hope it flowers soon and that will help to identify it. 

I'm also posting a photo of two cabbage plants that are about 15 feet apart.  One is growing in an area surrounded by red clover, the other is not.  This was a no till bed, but clover came up and I nestled plants in the the clover.  But there wasn't enough clover for all the plants.

Plants the Japanese beetles like:



Cabbage with clover, there are three in a row that all look pretty good and all in the clover patch:


There are 4 not in the clover patch that look like this:


The companion plants I put in with the cabbage was eaten, but the sage is still there.  These plants that look bad here are the most isolated, in one of the least ready beds and look the worst.

The plants that were put in the garden that was ready (the no-till garden where the straw had started to create a dark crumbly soil and surrounded by wild flowers) look much better and they have been more thickly planted with mixing of the plants like tomatoes, basil, peppers, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and marigolds all together. 



Next up, perennial greens.  Very excited about starting those this year.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Sorry these pictures are so big, I shrunk them down?
 
Dave Bennett
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sparticle wrote:
Sorry these pictures are so big, I shrunk them down?

Interesting that you have a plant that keeps those pests away from your garden.  I am hopeful someone recognizes it too because it took me 4 years of picking them off my flowering shrubbery and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water to reduce the hordes that used to reduce my shrubbery to a lacework of leaves and no flowers.  This year I only had to contend with a dozen or so.  Nicotine spray works but I dislike using something so toxic to everything it touches.
 
Daniel Ashley
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Is this helping with the actual beetle or with the grubs as well as the beetle? Because the grubs in my garden are destroying my cucumbers and have already destroyed my zucchini.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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I haven't seen any grubs or beetles in the garden.  All I've seen are the beetles in this mystery plant that grows around the garden.  Still no sign of a bloom yet so I can I.D. it. 
 
Dave Bennett
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Are you collecting the beetles for the pail of soapy water?  If they are chowing down you are going to have lots more of those "over eaters" maybe eating other plants as well next year.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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I have collected some, but there are still enough leaves on the mystery plant to keep them satisfied for now.  They are so easy to collect.  I thought I had to pick them off, but I just put a little jar of soapy water under them and tap the leaf they are on, they just fall right in.  There are usually two of them together, I'm assuming making little Japanese beetle babies.  I need to get out there and seriously get more off.  But then am I taking food away from their predator? 
 
Dave Bennett
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Good point about a predators.  That plant somehow looks familiar but for the life of me I can't remember why.  I used the soapy water bucket removal and it took me 4 years to get rid of the impressive barbarian horde.  Now when they show up so do the predators so I only pick off about half of them and my Ferns and flowering shrubs are spared from looking like lace.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Yes, I was thinking I should leave some. 
 
                                
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sparticle, a few questions that will help. 

Is it an annual?  does it reseed?
Does it flower?  What color?  What style?  Nondescript, small?
Are the stems round or have flattish sides?
Do the stems ever get woody brown?
Do the leaves come out of the stem directly across from each other, or alternating down the stem?
When you crush the leaves what do they smell like?
Did the previous owner have a garden there and brought the plant in?  Or does it occur elsewhere on your property?
If it appears elsewhere, is it in the woods, the shade, full sun, wet soil? 
What kind of soil is it growing in?
What do the seeds look like if it produces any?
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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This plant came up on it own and it's the first year I've noticed it.  There haven't been prior owners that used this land for many many years, maybe 15 at least, but could be 30 or more we are guessing based on how deep the ancient barbed wire we've found here and there is embedded into trees.  That was a selling point for me, I know no pesticides have been sprayed here in a long time if ever.  The person we bought it from didn't use the land and inherited it from his father who also didn't use it. 

I"m watching and learning about it.  No flower yet, no seed yet.  Waiting on that and I check it every day for changes. 

The plant does occur elsewhere on our property and also came up voluntarily, hugging against our "top" garden as it does around our bottom garden.  There is quite a good bit of distance between the two gardens and I'd go so far as to say slightly different micro-climate as well. 

NOt in the woods that I"ve seen, only in the full sun.  The soil is thick, dense and clayish on the top garden.  Soil on the bottom land much better, dark, mostly rock free, much fluffier.  Soils are very different from top to bottom, yet the plants look about the same and are roughly the same height, maybe slightly shorter in the clayish soil.

I'll check the stem for squareness, hair and note if the leaves are alternate or opposite and see if I can get a better photo of a single branch. 
 
Suzie Browning
Posts: 48
Location: Southwestern Ohio
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Many plants in the same family smell the same, so try crushing a leaf a little bit and smell to see if it smells familiar to you.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Ok, it's finally started flowering!!  I can't ID it with my field guide.  It's fairly tall ranging from about 4 - 1/2  to 6 feet tall. Leaves are alternate and entire. 



Head began to bunch together and get red tips:


Then little nubs appeared:


Today it started flowering, some white, some pale pink




 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Bit of an update, someone said it looked like a Gaura.  The flower is exact, but so far the leaf grouping is wrong.  On my plant, the leaves all come off branches that are attached to a main stem.  On all the Gaura pictures I've seen, the leaves come right off the main stalk. 
 
Suzie Browning
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Location: Southwestern Ohio
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Try searching for plants with the word Fire in the common name.  This seems/looks familiar to me and the word Fire is what popped into my head.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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I"m wondering now if I'm dealing with two plants?  I noticed in the pictures the flower stem is long and leaf free - unlike the picture where there are nubs.  When it stops raining, I"ll investigate more.  Thanks for the fire tip.  Off to search on that.
 
Rick Wells
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Sparticle, Where are you located at? Great job by the way.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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I thought I fixed it to show location, I see that I did not.  We are in Missouri.  An herbalist friend says it's in the Evening Primrose family, but the flower isn't right and neither is the branching on the leaves.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Went down and double checked that the flower and the leaves belong to the same plant.  Oh I wish someone knew what this was or that it was in my book!
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Drum roll please......... 

I believe it's a Gaura Biennis.  Even though most of the photos I've seen of it have no branches, what I've seen in text says it can be branched. This must be it

http://chestofbooks.com/flora-plants/flowers/Illustrated-Flora-2/17-Mer-olix-Raf-Am-Month-Mag-4-192-1818-Continued.html

Woo Hoo.  Now to figure out how to pronounce it.  I'm saying it like Guava.  This plant kept all the Japanese Beetles off of the garden, so I"m also going to call it Japanese Beetle ice cream.
 
Dave Bennett
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Looking at the drawings and comparing them to your photos I agree with you.  They look the same to me.  Cool name....... Japanese Beetle Ice Cream.   
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Found the pronunciation of this plant is like "gora" with the O sound as in Gore.  I've been saying GaUra, but nope. 
 
                            
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Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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If you're still in doubt about the ID,  http://www.missouriplants.com/ ; has some nice pictures.

Most plants in the evening primrose family are edible, but I can't find any good information on Guara's.  I did nibble a leaf a time or three and it doesn't taste bad, but I wouldn't recommend eating more than a small sample until somebody can find some reliable information about it.


 
Travis Halverson
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
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Good to know.

Our little backyard has a shitload of Japanese Beetles too.  I wish some birds around here (chickens?) would either eat them or eat more of them.  They're mostly after our raspberry leaves.  They must not be eating them too much though because it looks like we'll have an okay fall harvest of raspberries.

I thought of taking a jar of the beetles to a reptile shop in order to find out if anything there will eat them.  If so, one could harvest a bunch and sell jars of organic raspberry fed beetles to them.  Never did it though.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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More on this awesome plant.  It has just exploded in pink blooms now and some of the plants are turning the most beautiful red.  The plant is swarming in bees.  Here is a little video I took.  Be patient, the part with the bees comes.  I don't know how to edit video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21UOd0sg0AU

P.S. right at the end, there is a nice shot of a beautiful red sunflower and some of the watermelons. 

Picture of the plant turning red:
 
wayne stephen
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That is a great plant . I had the same experience this year with common milkweed . The Japanese beetles were stuck to it like glue. The problem I see is that this plant and milkweed will feed them and produce more . The good thing is that these plants are both short enough that chickens and turkeys can reach the beetles .
 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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wayne stephen wrote:That is a great plant . I had the same experience this year with common milkweed . The Japanese beetles were stuck to it like glue. The problem I see is that this plant and milkweed will feed them and produce more . The good thing is that these plants are both short enough that chickens and turkeys can reach the beetles .


I've been working with this plant now for 3 years and the way I see it, they would be there anyway so I'm glad they are on the sassafras, wild rose and Guara. It makes it easy to pick them off and find, though we don't ever pick off more than 50% or the whole group will move. Then we feed them to the chickens. We have seen a great reduction in population since we first got here.
 
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