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What's in your Garden?

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Through our new virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!

By: Aditya Eric Deshpande

I am a member of the HandsOnBayArea Youth Volunteer Council and I signed up for the "Nature In Your Neighborhood" project with Sutro Stewards. I was interested to do this project as a result of the many home projects going on within my household such as the removal of some plants from the backyard and the addition of some new steps to the backyard. This sparked my interest to go out into nature and learn a little about what I see everyday.

As part of this project I downloaded the iNaturalist App and took a stroll around my neighborhood. In order to identify the plants in the neighborhood I took pictures of the plants and uploaded them to iNaturalist. It was a very interesting experience and I got to know about many plants in my neighborhood. We have many different trees and bushes such as bougainvillea’s, azaleas, daisies, lemon and boxwood.

Azaleas are ornamental plants. Azaleas belong to the genus Rhododendron. Azaleas bloom in the spring and their flowers last several weeks. Azaleas are shade tolerant. In our garden they are planted under the apricot tree. Azaleas prefer living near or under trees. They are part of the family Ericaceae. Although the Azaleas are very pretty, they are also very toxic. Azaleas contains andromedotoxins in both its leaves and nectar, including honey from the nectar. It was quite interesting to learn that in some parts of Turkey bees are deliberately fed on Azalea/Rhododendron nectar producing a mind-altering, potentially medicinal, and occasionally lethal honey known as "mad honey". Who would have thought that the pretty Azalea was also associated with toxins?

Another ornamental plant was Rose Verbena. It is a herbaceous perennial native to North Carolina. I found this plant growing along the roadside. It grows well in dry, especially sandy soils. It had many clusters of flowers together in red-pink. It seems that this plant is susceptible to deer. However deer had not gotten to this plant yet. I was shocked to see it thriving considering the amount of deer in my neighborhood.

The Asiatic Jasmine or Trachelospermum asiaticum is a species of plant in the family Apocynaceae, native to Asia. It has fragrant flowers with the scent of Jasmine. This is an evergreen climber that is also a very common ground cover. Many flavonoids were extracted from the leaves. The plant is used in Korea in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism, abscesses and ulcers. I found it interesting to learn that a plant that I had always thought was very decorative also had medicinal uses.

Of the 30 plants that I studied, I was able to display three that I had the most fun interacting with and learning about. I hope you have enjoyed reading about them.