Gardener Gal: Looking at beautiful exotic, intriguing insect | Home and Outdoor Living

Dear Gardener Gal: Here is our new blue Chinese wisteria in bloom in Citrus Hills. We thought we had lost her in the freeze, but she’s strong and healthy! —Billie

Leslie Derrenbacker

Gardener Gal

Dear Billie: I sure appreciate you sharing your pretty bloom. I don’t think there is a person alive that doesn’t think wisteria blooms are stunning.

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However, I wouldn’t be earning my paycheck (just kidding! Master gardeners don’t get paid, just asked nicely to help gardeners and save Florida) if I didn’t remind you and my other readers that the Chinese wisteria — as well as any other plant with another country in its name—is an exotic. In this case, an invasive one.

Fun facts: Wisterias are in the bean family, can live 50 years, have toxic parts and can kill large trees by shading them out.

Hard to tell exactly, but yours appears to be located where you can keep it in check. When you trim it, just be sure to throw the cuttings into the trash and not into a wooded area or compost pile.

For other readers inspired by Billie’s bloom, the American or evergreen wisterias are noninvasive and the American is also an excellent host plant for several butterflies. Buy American!

Dear Readers: Tell the truth … do you now, or have you ever owned, a piece of decor featuring a dragonfly? Bet the answer is yes.

Wildly popular, dragonfly decorations, jewelry and art is absolutely everywhere. With all that popularity, how much do you really know about these insect rockstars?

For instance, did you know they have been around for 300 million years?

How about that they and, their cousin the damsel fly, are found on every continent except Antarctica? Did you know the female can lay as many as 1,500 eggs and that once hatched, the nymphs can live as long as 2 years in water before coming on land and transforming into an adult?

Last one: Fastest flying insect ever? The dragonfly. They have been clocked at up to 35 miles an hour.

We have 150 species here in Florida. While we associate these rockstar insects with bodies of water, you are just as likely to see them in large groups in a parking lot or your landlocked front yard. Unless it is mating time, they go where the food is.

Luckily for us, they eat mosquitoes along with pretty much anything they can catch.

A dear friend of mine was lucky enough to be visiting her lake home last weekend just as large group of dragonflies were making the final transition from water to the sky. As a true dragonfly worshiper, this made for a very magical weekend.

My personal favorite dragonfly story happened many years ago while my husband and I were taking a break from remodeling our house. We were sitting on the back porch eating popcorn when a large dragonfly began hovering right in front of us.

He seemed overly interested in what we were eating so I threw a tiny piece in the air. He chased it. I threw another and, same thing. This went on for several minutes. He had no interest in actually catching the popcorn, just seemed to enjoy the game.

Now I ask you, how can you not be a fan of such an intriguing insect?

Happy gardening!

“Gardener Gal” Leslie Derrenbacker is a Master Gardener and native Floridian. Send your questions to


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