Tag Archive: Alternative

An Alternative to Invasive Ruellia


Individual Ruellia ‘Mayan Compact Purple’ flower. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat

Avid horticulturists often get frustrated when attractive, floriferous, versatile, durable, and easy-to-grow plants get sidelined because they have been declared an invasive species. Ruellia simplex (commonly known as Mexican petunia) was declared a category 1 invasive in 2001 by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, described as “a plant that is altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives” (Source: UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants).

It produces copious amounts of seed year-long, which do not require exposure to cold weather (stratification) or mechanical damage (scarification) to germinate. Its excellent garden characteristics such as prolific flower production, and adaptability to varying light, temperature and moisture levels also increase its invasive potential.

Fortunately, recent developments in the field of plant breeding have developed several sterile Ruellia cultivars that have demonstrated low invasive potential in field trials. UF / IFAS researchers have developed the MayanTM series, which includes four distinct new cultivars: ‘MayanTM White’, ‘MayanTM Pink’, ‘MayanTM White’ and’ MayanTM Compact Purple’. They are available to the public through various licensed nurseries.

Three month old plant of Ruellia ‘Mayan Compact Purple’ in full flower. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat

This spring, UF/IFAS Extension agents were given the opportunity to try MayanTM Series Ruellia at their local offices. I opted to try the ‘MayanTM Compact Purple’ cultivar and so far it has been an excellent landscape plant. It is shorter than other Ruellia cultivars and has adequate branching throughout so as to not look leggy. It blooms regularly and flowers have a nice, purple hue. It does not mind full morning sun but benefits from afternoon shade, particularly during the hot summer months. So far, it seems like an excellent selection for plant borders or areas where a durable source of color is needed. Additionally, it produces no fruit and very little viable pollen, so it does not have potential to hybridize with naturalized Ruellia simplex populations.

Although this is a sterile selection, it can still multiply by rhizomes. While I have not observed any invasive behavior in ‘MayanTM Compact Purple’, I have just tested it in one location.

For more information consult this article from Florida Foundation Seed Producers and one from Hort Science on the ‘MayanTM Compact Purple’ cultivar.

Ruellia ‘Mayan Compact Purple’. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat

Ruellia ‘Mayan Compact Purple’ Image Credit: Matthew Orwat


Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

Matthew Orwat

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/18/an-alternative-to-invasive-ruellia/

Spice Things Up with Alternative Seasonings

With today’s continued focus on healthy eating and the dangers of high blood pressure, seasoning and cooking with salt has decreased.  Alternative seasonings such as herbs and spices are excellent additions to any dish without the dreaded sodium.  Herbs and spices are easy to use and can add a variety of delicious flavor combinations to any family favorite.

The difference between an herb and a spice is the part of the plant used.  Herbs come from the leaves and soft stems of the plant.  Spices are taken from the roots, seeds, bark, fruit, or flowers of the plant.  Spices tend to have a stronger flavor than herbs, and are usually used in smaller quantities.

Besides being a healthy substitute for salt, herbs and spices can also replace added fat and sugar without contributing extra calories.  Instead of adding extra sugar to oatmeal, for example, try using cinnamon or allspice.

Add cumin or ground black pepper to more savory dishes instead of reaching for the salt shaker or butter.  Try seasoning meats with herbs and spices instead of coating them in breading or gravy.

Not all herbs and spices pair well with all types of foods.  Herbs and spices should be used to enhance and complement the flavor of food without taking it over completely.

A strong herb such as rosemary would completely overwhelm a mild-tasting food like peas or other vegetable.  Conversely, a mild herb such as parsley would be completely overwhelmed by a strong-tasting food such as lamb or beef.

Dried herbs can be used instead of fresh herbs in recipes, and vice versa.  Keep in mind the flavor of dried herbs is much more concentrated than that of fresh, so reduce the amount accordingly.

Use only a quarter to half as much dried as fresh.  Start with a smaller amount, and then add as needed to achieve the desired taste.

Look for herbs with a bright green color and little or no wilting when choosing fresh ones.  Avoid bunches showing signs of mold, slime, or pests.

Wash fresh herbs in clean, cool water to get rid of any sand.  Fresh herbs need to be stored in the refrigerator, in an unsealed plastic bag, to maintain optimal freshness.  They can last up to three weeks, though should be used within a week for the best flavor.

Dried herbs and spices, if stored correctly, do not spoil.  However, they will lose their flavor and aroma over time.

Ideally, flaked or ground herbs and spices should be replaced every six months for maximum flavor, but can remain viable for up to three years.  Whole spices such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns can remain effective for up to five years.

Not all herbs and spices are created equal.  When using them in cooking, it is important to remember the more delicate herbs such as basil and chives should be added right before serving to preserve their flavor.

Less delicate herbs such as thyme and oregano can be added earlier in the cooking process since they retain their flavor better.  When creating herb blends, mix, match, and be creative.  Add them to a cheese shaker for easy access during meals.

To learn more, sign up for the Extension Cooking Class series which starts September 7, 2017 at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 84 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville. Start time is 6:00 p.m. and the cost is $ 10.

For additional tips about cooking with herbs and spices, call Samantha at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension office at (850) 926-3931.


Author: Samantha Kennedy, M.S. – skennedy@ufl.edu

Samantha is the Family & Consumer Sciences agent in Wakulla County. She has worked for UF/IFAS Extension since 2004. She has a B.S. in both Microbiology & Cell Science and Nutritional Sciences and an M.S. in Agricultural Education, both from UF. Her areas of expertise are nutrition, health & wellness, chronic disease prevention, food safety, disaster preparedness, and financial literacy. You can reach her via email at skennedy@ufl.edu or by calling (850) 926-3931.

Samantha Kennedy, M.S.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/24/spice-things-up-with-alternative-seasonings/

Evergreen Wisteria – An Excellent Alternative for Chinese Wisteria

Evergreen Wisteria – An Excellent Alternative for Chinese Wisteria

Are you looking for a way to jazz up a fence, trellis, or arbor? Are you looking for year-round color in your garden? Are you looking for wonderful, fragrant blooms in the summer? Then evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata) may be the right plant for your place!

Evergreen wisteria growing on a fence. Photo: University of Florida/IFAS

Evergreen wisteria growing on a fence. Photo: University of Florida/IFAS

Evergreen wisteria is not only a beautiful vine, but it is an excellent alternative to that pesky, invasive Chinese wisteria. Sometimes referred to as summer wisteria, this plant is native to China and Taiwan. As you may have noticed by its scientific name, Millettia reticulata, is not a true wisteria but it is in the same plant family, Legumaceae or the bean family.

Evergreen wisteria in bloom. Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Evergreen wisteria in bloom. Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Evergreen wisteria is a woody vine that has glossy, thick green leaves and clusters of small, fragrant, purple flowers. The plant can reach a height of up to 30 feet, but can easily be controlled with pruning. It blooms in the summer, and often into the fall, with deep purple, pea shaped blooms. Although its common name states it is evergreen, it is often semi-evergreen in the Panhandle. Evergreen wisteria grows best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade.

Evergreen wisteria can tolerate a wide range of soil pH as long as the soil is well-drained. It is a twining vine and may need a little help to start growing on a structure. It can be left alone to climb tall structures like pergolas and arbors, but you may want to selectively prune the plant to encourage it to leaf out at its base when training on a trellis or fence. Deadheading (removing spent blooms) will encourage an elongated bloom season.

Evergreen wisteria can help add an additional visual dimension to your landscape and it won’t invade your space like its distant cousin.


Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/22/evergreen-wisteria-an-excellent-alternative-for-chinese-wisteria/

East Meets West: Alternative Horse Therapy

This stallion at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences horse teaching unit in Gainesville, gets an acupuncture treatment from Fluisheng Xie, Wednesday (9/25). Xie, of Beijing, China, and a Ph.D. candidate at UF/IFAS's animal sciences department, brings an eastern medical treatment to a western patient. "The treatments relieve muscular tension and relax stiff joints which can cause severe discomfort to a horse," Xie said.

This stallion at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences horse teaching unit in Gainesville, gets an acupuncture treatment from Dr. Fluisheng Xie. “The treatments relieve muscular tension and relax stiff joints which can cause severe discomfort to a horse,” Dr. Xie said.

Since we call western medicine “conventional” medicine, it follows that Complementary and Alternative Medicine would be considered unconventional medicine. In recent years, more and more doctors and veterinarians are embracing alternative therapies as an adjunct to traditional treatment modalities. Though adoption has been gradual, as more practitioners and clients experience positive outcomes, they become advocates, even promoters. With increased interest and case loads, opportunities for research arise which, in turn, bring greater understanding and acceptance of the applications of various therapies.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is based on the idea that the individual parts of the animal work in concert, and healing is best accomplished when the whole body system is brought into balance. Both eastern and western medicine rely on medical history and examination for diagnosis. While western practitioners may recommend surgery and pharmaceuticals, the TCVM practitioner may recommend acupuncture, herbs, or management changes. Ultimately, both eastern and western medicine have as their goals; promoting animal health and preventing disease.

The most widely known alternative therapy is acupuncture. In acupuncture, specific points on the body called acupoints are stimulated resulting in endorphin release, increased blood flow, improved immune function and blood pressure regulation. Stimulation of acupoints may be accomplished with tiny needles, pressure, low level electricity, warmth, laser, fluid, or air. Veterinary acupuncture is most commonly used for pain management, geriatric medicine, and sports medicine. A lesser known value of acupoints is their use in diagnostics. In the hands of a certified veterinarian, acupuncture can provide horses with chronic conditions much improved quality of life.

Herbal medicine is an integral component of TCVM, often used in conjunction with acupuncture. Most herb blends are developed for the specific needs of the individual based on the properties of the plants and actions in the body. Herbal medicine utilizes the whole plant or defined portions of a plant compared to a single, isolated active ingredient as in western pharmacology. There are risks associated with inappropriate use of herbs so erring on the side of caution and seeking expert advice is warranted.

Chiropractic care involves manipulations of joints of the spine to treat biomechanically related musculoskeletal disorders. It is particularly helpful as an adjunct treatment for lameness and is intended to correct vertebral alignment and restore full nervous function so the animal can heal.

Massage therapy for horses is similar to massage in humans. The therapist is not providing a diagnosis but rather providing relief of muscle tension and spasms. Massage therapy can improve muscle tone, increase range of motion, relieve pain and increase circulation for more rapid healing of injuries.

Tui-Na is a manual therapy that combines chiropractic and massage to prevent and treat disease. Manipulations applied to acu-points and meridians or limb-stretching movements are employed to soothe joints, promote circulation and strengthen the body’s resistance. These techniques are particularly effective in treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

Energy medicine is based on the concept that life relies on energy and disease occurs when there is an imbalance of a bio-energetic field. Some types of energy used therapeutically are electric, magnetic, sonic, acoustic, microwave, and infrared.

Environmental medicine advocates improvement in the environmental conditions that are contributing to disease. Factors may include mold, dust, chemicals and certain foods. Heaves is a prime example of a disease in which environmental modifications might bring relief.

Nutrition and diet are another major component of holistic medicine (treating the whole animal rather that the disease). Classical nutritional requirements are based on the average of a whole population, not the individual. Additionally, certain types of feeds can serve to promote wellness and provide adjunct therapy for other forms of treatment. Nutraceuticals are nutritional supplements used as therapeutic agents.

Homeopathy is based on the concept of like heals like. Homeopathic remedies are extreme dilutions of substances that are known to cause disease symptoms. Conceptually, dilutions of these substances promote healing. Little research has been done in horses treated with homeopathy.

Alternative therapies are not intended to replace conventional medicine for diagnosis and treatment of acute conditions.  The use of eastern medicine in concert with western medicine, however, enhances quality of life and provides a more whole-animal approach to health and well-being. Alternative and complementary medicine is becoming an integral part of veterinary training and is requested by an increasing number of horse owners.



Author: Saundra TenBroeck – sht@ufl.edu

Saundra TenBroeck

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/05/east-meets-west-alternative-horse-therapy/

“Sodbuster” Radish- an Alternative for Winter Cover Crops

oats and sodbuster radish

This field of “Sodbuster” radish is a new alternative winter cover crop.

On the corner of US 29 and FL 97 in northern Escambia County, people have been wondering what crop Eric Koehn (local producer), planted in the fields late last Fall after he harvested.  The answer is a mixture of “Sodbuster” radish and oats.

According to Richard Petcher, retired Auburn Extension Agronomist agent and proprietor of Petcher Seeds, Sodbuster Brand Radish is a new cover-crop forage-radish developed in New Zealand. The Sodbuster’s large taproots are superior and can penetrate soils as far as 6 feet deep.

Measuring taproots of radish

The Sodbuster’s large taproots can “bust” holes through soils, plow and break the hardpan, and scavenge for plant nutrients.

The taproot’s fleshy upper part can “bust” a hole from 10-20 inches long and 2-3 inches wide.  This radish root plows and breaks the hardpan, and also scavenges for plant nutrients.  The root decomposes rapidly when terminated (Petcher says decomposition will occur in 4-6 weeks this time of year and even quicker during warmer weather).  The areas where roots decompose form open holes allowing water to infiltrate the soil.  According to Petcher, the crop is an excellent scavenger for nutrients and can release as much as 80 pounds of Nitrogen and 5 tons of organic matter for the next crop.  Wildlife, especially deer, love this radish.

In November, Eric planted 5 pounds of “Sodbuster” radish seed/acre and added some oats to the mixture.  Although he didn’t add apply any fertilizer to the crop, he is satisfied with the stand and hopes to see some benefits in the dryland cotton he intends to plant in these fields later this year.

Flower of radish

Sodbuster radish flowers.

For more information about where to get “Sodbuster” radish seed, please visit http://www.petcherseeds.com/ .  For more information on cover crops in general, please read this UF/IFAS EDIS publication titled “Cover Crops.”  As always, for any agricultural or natural resource questions, don’t hesitate to contact your local, friendly Extension agent at the UF IFAS Escambia County Extension office. You can call me at 850-475-5230, drop by the office at 3740 Stefani Road, Cantonment, or send an email to libbiej@ufl.edu.


Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/03/22/sodbuster-radish-an-alternative-for-winter-cover-crops/

Satsuma: a New (Old) Alternative Crop for North Florida


A Two Year Old Satsuma Grove Near Marianna, Florida around 1920
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/156264


North Florida, specifically Jackson County, according to citrus industry historians was once known as the ‘Satsuma Capital of the World.” During it’s peak, there were more than 3000 total acres dedicated to Satsuma production in the Florida Panhandle alone.  While satsumas are the most cold tolerant cultivar of citrus, with mature dormant trees surviving temperatures as low at 14 degrees F, three major freezes including a particularly brutal one in 1935 virtually eliminated all citrus in this region of the state and country, and by 1980 there were no commercial Satsuma groves in this area of the state.

That all began to change though in the 1990’s, with new plantings of Satsuma beginning to be established in North Florida and throughout other areas of the gulf south. The key to this seems to have been driven by the advancement in freeze protection through methods like in-tree microsprinklers which can protect trees up to a height of approximately five feet, and varietal improvements, advancements made largely in part through research done at the University of Florida and IFAS. This advancement has led to the possibility and promise of bringing back this crop that once dominated the region so many years ago.

While there are several rootstocks used in growing citrus, trifoliate orange is the most commonly used in this area where maximum cold tolerance is a must. This rootstock grows well in fertile clay to loamy soils and does not develop a deep or wide root system. An added bonus is that it is highly resistant to foot rot, a soil borne fungal disease that can wreak havoc in areas where drainage may be an issue.

The most popular varieties of Satsuma grown in North Florida at this time include:

–       Owari Satsuma: matures October to November. Few, if any, seeds

–       Kimbrough Satsuma: matures October to November, few if any seeds. Produces fruit that is larger than those seen on Owari.

–       ‘Brown Select’ Satsuma: matures October to November (generally two weeks ahead of Owari and Kimbrough)

–       ‘Early St. Ann’ Satsuma: matures late September to October (one of the earliest producing varieties available)

For more information, download the UF/IFAS Fact Sheet on Satsumas.


Advancements in cold protection

Advancements in freeze protection through methods like in-tree microsprinklers can protect trees up to a height of approximately five feet.




Author: Robert Trawick – rob.trawick@ufl.edu

Robert Trawick

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/02/08/satsuma-a-new-old-alternative-crop-for-north-florida/