Greetings Friends, and welcome to this episode on the many virtues of Native Plants and the local Native Plant Festival here in Garrett County that celebrates their virtues, teaches us how to grow them, and let’s us purchase native plants from growers that come from all over. The fact of the matter is, the foundation of our ecosystem is rooted in native plants. Discover that important connection between native plants, people, and wildlife, on Saturday May 11th, it’s free of charge. It’s all about the Circle of Life here on planet Earth. I’m Lisa Cole, your guide and host, and this is Wildfulness.
What IS the definition of a “native” plant? Of course, it depends who you ask. Most simply, a native is any plant that historically grew in North America. However, some say that “native” plants are those that occurred in the region before settlement by Europeans, although Native American tribes are known to have altered plant communities a bit as well.
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Native plants were living here long before we arrived with our fertilizers and pruners. Once established, they provide four seasons of carefree beauty. Anyway, we can all agree that native plants are uniquely adapted to the soil and climate of the area, and play an important role in plant and animal communities.
Introducing native plants to your garden or land can bring many seasons of delight and discovery. However, they aren’t just a pretty face: Their many merits exceed their virtues of beauty, resilience and appeal to birds and pollinators. In our shownotes, at http://www.wildful.wordpress.com, we feature a beautiful video called The Circle of Life, by one of the prominent native plant nurseries, and it tells the story in a truly engaging way. The video points out that native plants co-evolved with native insects and wildlife; they are deeply dependent on one another. Plants provide food and shelter to insects, birds, and other small animals, which, in turn support larger predators. Native plants are the fundamental stepping stones of a healthy eco-system.
How Can Native Plants Benefit Me and My Yard?
Native plants make the circle of life possible, and are great choices for your landscape. When planted in their natural conditions, they require almost no maintenance once they are established. While they are establishing themselves, native plants might need supplemental watering. It can take as little as a few weeks for natives to become established and rarely takes longer than one growing season. Planting natives can mean a significant reduction in the amount of pesticides and fertilizers released into the environment and can eliminate the need for supplemental watering. That’s awesome news for all of us, but particularly for those in Garrett County who own vacation homes, and don’t want to spend their precious weekends doing yard work!
So let’s cut right to the chase – what’s the quickest, best way to get up to speed on these kinds of plants to use in Garrett County? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s the Mountain Maryland Native Plant Festival, on Saturday, May 11, from 10-3, at New Germany State Park. And of course, there’s a lovely video about the festival, created by Engage Mountain Maryland, that we have embedded in our shownotes:
It’s really well done and will give you an excellent overview, by a variety of folks, as to what the Festival offers and why you should go. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Liz McDowell, who’s in charge of the Western Chapter of the Maryland Native Plant Society, who partners with New Germany State Park to organize the annual event. Can’t make it to the Festival? Don’t despair! Stay tuned for the section of this podcast a little bit later, that features Charity Miller from the Mosser Meadows Nursery/Halian Landscape company in Oakland, as she sheds some light on what they’re offering as far as native plants, and what the future holds in terms of their future efforts with natives.
I can’t talk about the circle of life and native plants without a brief interlude to talk about bees. I know I talk alot about birds, and birds do benefit enormously from native plants, but I haven’t really talked about bees, so bear with me a moment.
Why We Need to Protect Bees?
- Plants need bees to pollinate, making bees indispensable pollinators of most ecosystems. There are 369,000 flowering plant species, and 90% of them are dependent on insect pollination. A honeybee can usually visit 50-1000 flowers in one trip; if a bee takes ten trips a day, a colony with 25,000 forager bees can pollinate 250 million flowers in a day.
- Bees are a keystone species, with other species dependent on them to survive. Many species of animals depend on bees for their survival because their food sources, including nuts, berries, seeds, and fruits, rely on insect pollination.
- Pollination not only makes food available for other organisms but also allows floral growth, which provides habitats for animals, including other insects and birds.
- As pollinators disappear, the effect on the health and viability of crops and native plant communities can be disastrous. We simply cannot survive without bees.
- Pollinators contribute billions to the world economy. The global crop production pollinated by bees is valued at $577 billion. Pollinators contribute $24 billion to the U.S. agriculture industry, making up a third of the food consumed by Americans.
In our shownotes, we have further info about bees that I think is just fascinating. But for now, we’re going to pause for a word from our partner, Deep Creek Times.
Threats to Bee Species
- Widespread use of pesticides, neonicotinoids and GMOs
- Climate change
- Loss of habitat, including land use changes, habitat fragmentation, loss of bio-diversity
- Bees forced into service; monoculture
- Pests, diseases, viruses, and mold
Actions You Can Take to Help Protect Bees
- Urge your Congress representative to pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act and to protect the Endangered Species Act.
- Support a ban on the use of pesticides, especially neonicotinoid pesticides.
- Become a beekeeper or plant a bee-friendly garden with native wildflowers and plants.
- 10 great flowers for your bee garden
- Learn how to go green, protect the environment and fight global warming with our 45 easy-to-follow tips.
- Get your whole family, kids included, into the act! https://www.mnn.com/family/family-activities/stories/5-ways-to-help-children-help-bees
Ecosystem Restoration: Tallgrass prairies are North America’s most threatened major ecosystem, with about 99% plowed up or paved over since the 1830s. By planting native species, you are restoring ecosystems and preserving countless species that might otherwise be lost forever. Birds and especially bees and other insects need native plants – 90% of our native insects (not just bees) are specialists, meaning they require a native host plant in their life cycle. Also, birds sustain their young almost exclusively on native insects, primarily caterpillars. It takes thousands of caterpillars and insects in order to raise and fledge a clutch of young birds.
Clean Air: Like forests, prairies and meadows sequester pollutants and carbon from the atmosphere. Even small plantings can help filter the air around your home, and large plantings can help to mitigate climate change.
Clean Water: Because of the deep root system of most native plants, they act both as a sponge and a filter. They help water soak down into the soil and filter out excess nutrients and pollutants, improving water quality.
Healthy Soil: The dance between native plants and animals created some of the most fertile soil on Earth, making the American Midwest the “Breadbasket to the World.” Native plants prevent soil erosion, create topsoil and build fertility.
Invasive Species: Outside of their native environments, some plants will aggressively out-compete others because they lack natural checks and balances like pests and predators. Some of our worst non-native invaders – Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, Dame’s Rocket – were first planted in gardens. By choosing natives, you can help prevent further habitat loss.
Resource Conservation: Once established, native plants can save you time and money because they require little or no irrigation, fertilizer, pruning or mowing.
Predators like foxes, snakes and birds of prey rely on small mammals, amphibians, birds and insects for their survival. All of these prey species are sustained by native plants. Maintaining biodiversity is important to all of us. Essential nutrient cycling is expedited by carrion beetles, fly larvae and other scavenging insects, enriching the soil.
Tips for Creating a Place for Native Plants in Your Yard
Whether large or small, you can introduce natives into your current landscape. How?Identify the plants that currently grow in your yard and neighborhood. Take photos and use online gardening sites, garden plant apps, or gardening books, or bring your photos to your local nursery for identification help. When looking at what’s in your yard, you might be surprised to find that many of the plants used in landscapes are not native. Instead they come from other parts of the world and were chosen because of their beauty or functionality in the landscape. Ability to grow in poor soils, to withstand air pollution, to provide ornamental blooms and foliage, and to resist disease are plant characteristics that typically outweigh a plant’s value to wildlife when people choose plants for their gardens. Many common species that you’ve seen your entire life are really non-natives that have been introduced in just the last century. The fact that you are used to seeing them and may mistake them for natural parts of the ecosystem does not change their negative impact on native plant and wildlife species.
And here’s an interesting tip about your lawn:
Restoring Native Plants
Plants are the tools you will use to create your wildlife habitat garden and connect your property back into the local ecosystem. Native wildlife species have evolved to depend on the plants that are also native to their ecosystem.
John Hart Asher, environmental designer at the LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center says, “Few people realize that they have the power to sequester carbon, provide habitat for wildlife, prevent erosion and clean water by choosing to replace the norm – their non-native lawn or flowerbeds – with a prairie.” Asher created a pocket prairie at his East Austin home. Now he encourages others to do the same on their city or suburban lots. You can see how here.
Without them, wildlife populations decline. As a result, only native plants provide the entire range of habitat benefits needed by native wildflowers. And even if you’re trying to create a patch of bee- and bird-friendly plants on a budget, you can purchase seed mixes, from $2-3.00 that empower you to plant 15 or more varieties of annuals and herbs that will have your tiny pocket garden plot buzzing. And we have examples in our shownotes.
I know some of the natives I’m using here in Garrett County, that provide four seasons of interest in my yard, are oakleaf hydgrangea, red twig dogwood, bottlebrush buckeye, chokeberry, and wild ginger. But there are alot more, and I know just the expert you could talk to about wonderful native plants for your yard. Here she is, Charity Miller, from Mosser Meadow Nursery talking about their native plant offerings and activities. So great that we have a local source now of these plants!
So, in drawing this episode to a close, I want to thank you for listening, I want to thank our partner, Deep Creek Times, Charity Miller of Mosser Meadow Nurseries/Halian Landscapes, and I want to wish you well and good luck in your journey toward learning about, appreciating, and hopefully planting, some wonderful native plants. Mother Earth will be most grateful. Until we meet again,
Stay Wild, my Friends
Links and Resources:
- Visit www.nwf.org/garden for more native plant resources.
- You can make a difference for wildlife where you live by creating a habitat and having it recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
- Maryland Native Plant Society https://mdflora.org/
- Halian/Mosser Meadows’ Facebook Page
Recently revised authoritative book:
Naturalist and TV personality David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation has just published the expanded second edition of his how-to book Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife. Below is an excerpt from the book’s first chapter, in which he discusses identifying, restoring, and purchasing native plants.
How to Find and Support Native Plants
• Contact your local native plant society to learn what plants are native to your region and which are invasives or other problematic non-natives.
• Learn how to propagate plants from seeds and cuttings and grow your own native plants.
• Participate in plant swaps with other native plant growers.
• Organize a plant rescue at a construction site.
• Let your local nursery know you will purchase native plants for wildlife if they are available and clearly marked as native.