Fall Issue 2023
Wicked Things in the Garden: Dr. Rappacini’s Eden
Written by Linda Van Luik, active Roanoke Master Gardener
Bees and Wasps
Know how to identify the venomous snakes in our area; do not confuse them with non-venomous snakes which perform a valuable job in rodent control and do not threaten us with a major medical issue. Of the venomous snakes, most likely to be seen in our back yards would be the copperhead. The Wildlife of Virginia’s site on Snakes as Neighbors notes that “copperheads can be found throughout Virginia in forests, old fields, rocky outcrops and marshes; they eat small rodents, birds, lizards, amphibians, insects, and other snakes.” Learn to recognize its brown saddle-like markings so you won’t have to get close to identify the shape of the head or the pupils. I have spotted copperheads in our yard three times in thirty years. I usually tell them to go away; then I go inside and hope they are gone when I come back outside. I always remember where I saw them and what the conditions were: dead leaves that make great camouflage for these bad boys who lie very still to avoid confrontation.
As for poisonous plants, I have introduced some into my yard as being deer- and rabbit- resistant plants. I gave up on hostas and day lilies, which deer gobble down like ice cream treats. Hence, things with rough textures and pungent smells that should discourage deer from browsing are found in my yard, but this doesn’t always work. The deer in my neighborhood bite the budding tops off flowers that are reportedly deer-resistant: I have very few coneflowers or black-eyed susans that actually get the chance to bloom. And of course, I have gradually added into my yard some plants that range from mild to extreme toxicity.