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Shrub with beautiful flowers identified

Plants can be identified by searching for botanical clues. Special to The Forum

Q: Do you know what kind of shrub this is? The flowers are beautiful, and the bees are enjoying the blooms. It's about five to six feet tall and was trimmed back in the fall of 2016. — Sarah Adams, Moorhead, Minn.

A: Botany is a tremendous help when identifying shrubs, trees, and other plants. Clues that distinguish plants include leaf arrangement along the stems, whether attached directly opposite or in an alternating pattern, as well as stem characteristics, leaf shape and flower traits.

Examining the clues tells us the plant in the photo is chokecherry. If the leaves turn from green to reddish-purple by mid-June, it's the Schubert chokecherry, also known as Canada Red Cherry. If they remain green, then it's the good old-fashioned green-leaf chokecherry, native to the region, which can either grow as a large shrub, a shrubby tree or a multi-trunked tree reaching 25 feet in height.

The ultimate size and form of chokecherry can be managed by pruning. If left to its own devices, it can reach its full potential of 25 feet high and 20 feet wide.

Each of the small five-petaled flowers in the long cluster, called a raceme, will become a fruit, which will form the clusters of chokecherries that can be harvested when they turn purple-black in summer.

Q: When harvesting asparagus, is it best to cut them or break them off, and how close to the ground should that be done? Is it the end of June or the end of July that you should quit harvesting asparagus? — LeRoy Throlson, Sheyenne, N.D.

A: Asparagus spears can be either cut or snapped off, whichever you prefer, and there seems to be no advantage to either method. The suggested point of harvest is 1 inch below soil surface, which is sometimes easier with a knife.

July 4 is an easy date to remember for the final asparagus harvest. After Independence Day, allow tops to "fern out," which feeds and replenishes the below-ground roots and crown. Allow the tops to remain intact during winter to catch snow and lessen risk of winter injury. Remove tops in early spring before new spears emerge.

Q: We're having trouble with mushrooms in our yard in a spot where an old cottonwood tree was removed and the stump dug out five years ago. We tried baking soda mixed with water, as suggested on Facebook, but it didn't work. We tilled it up and planted grass seed, then tried sod, and the mushrooms still keep appearing. — Delilah Jeanotte, Fargo.

A: Mushrooms are fungi that live on decaying organic material in the lawn like old, rotting tree roots. Mushrooms don't harm the lawn, and it's simply best to rake or mow the visible mushroom caps and dispose. No readily available chemicals are currently available that are effective for eliminating mushrooms without harming the lawn. You might try power raking or core aeration to increase air penetration. Water deeply and less frequently. When the organic material on which they're thriving is totally decomposed, mushrooms usually disappear.

In the meantime, they can benefit the lawn by releasing nutrients from decaying material. Mushrooms can be visually annoying, but mostly they're just trying to help.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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