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Garden Q&A: What is this camouflaged leaf creature?

For The Baltimore Sun

This leaf creature was flying from plant to plant yesterday, otherwise I would never have noticed it. Do I want it in my garden? I hope so.

Katydids are great mimickers. The adults camouflage themselves as leaves, but their immature nymphs can look like spiders, assassin bugs (all the better to keep predators from eating them), even flowers, depending upon the katydid species. Or they may look like little adult katydids. Since they are nocturnal insects, you may hear the famous nighttime “katy-did” song of the adult male trying to attract a lady love. Eggs hatch in the fall. Some species feed on leaves, bark, seeds and flowers, while others are predators of insects, snails and small invertebrates such as lizards, but no katydids could be considered pests. Enjoy.

I'm a California transplant, and have been astounded at the vigorous greenery in Baltimore wild spaces. I have never seen vines smothering whole trees like I see driving along roads here. What are most of these vines? At first I assumed it was mostly kudzu, but is kudzu so dominant this far north? I've read online about projects to cut back the vines to help the forests flourish, but none of the articles identified what most of these vines actually are.

Welcome to the lushness of Maryland, aided by increasing CO2 levels, which particularly spurs vine growth. We have some scattered stands of kudzu, but most of what you see are probably other non-native invasive vines, such as oriental bittersweet (orange fall berries) and English ivy (evergreen). Often a combination of several. Of course, we have native vines, too, though they don’t tend to weigh down trees (with the occasional exception of wild grape.) To identify them, search “weeds” in the weed gallery on the HGIC website and look at the Woody and Vining Weeds. Those starred are invasive.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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