Monthly Archives: September 2015

Replacing Lawn with Natives at a Virginia Rest Stop

On a cloudy humid morning, a small group of about 50 diverse people came together at the Dale City, Virginia, northbound rest stop.  They weren’t travelling through and stopping briefly for a break.  On the contrary, these people came here to work.  They were generously donating their time for one common passion: our pollinators.  These volunteers, over the course of the day, manually installed more than 8,000 flowering perennials in 15,000 square feet of former turfgrass.  An impressive and inspiring undertaking.

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is one of 13 species of plants being installed.

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) was one of 13 species of plants installed.

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Sue Dingwell of the Virginia Native Plant Society offered expertise and energy to the mass VDOT planting.

Native planting at Dale City rest area

Volunteers toiled for most of the day.

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This gentleman, a Dominion VA Power volunteer, shows off one of the plant plugs.

Katherine Daniels of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy happily digs in.

Katherine Daniels of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy happily digs in.

September 29, 2015 

VDOT’S POLLINATOR HABITAT PROGRAM MOVES TOWARD STATEWIDE IMPLEMENTATION

DALE CITY- Monarch butterflies appear to flutter carefree with the breeze, but their survival is under constant threat due to dwindling habitats and food supplies.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Dominion Virginia Power teamed up with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Native Plant Society and Valley Land on Tuesday to plant more than 8,000 pollinator-friendly plants at the Dale City Rest Area on Interstate 95 north in Northern Virginia.  This project is part of VDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program, which aims to create “waystations” or refuges for Monarch butterflies and other threatened pollinators.

Read more about this project from VDOT here.

Non-Native Plants and Insect Diversity

The herbivore spicebush butterfly caterpillar (Papilio troilus) on spicebush (Lindera benzoin), one of its host plants.

The herbivore spicebush butterfly caterpillar (Papilio troilus) on spicebush (Lindera benzoin), one of its host plants.

Not only do native plants do a better job of hosting and supporting local insect communities than their non-native counterparts, but a University of Delaware study shows that non-native plants are compounding the problem of declining species diversity by supporting fewer herbivores across landscapes.  

Read what researchers Karin Burghardt and Doug Tallamy found in Insect diversity: Team looks at effects of non-native plants on herbivores at PHYS.org.

Lisa Bright Shares Her Garden Faves

Choosing the Right Native Plants for Your Garden

Our Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery will be hosting a Fall Plant Sale on Sunday, September 27th from 10 am to 2 pm. We are offering about 300 species of local native plants, all germinated by us right here at the nursery.

I just want to highlight our special offerings for the Open House this Fall:

Chinkapin (Castanea pumila)

Chinkapin (Castanea pumila) laden with fruit. Photo courtesy Earth Sangha.

Alleheny Chinkapin (Castanea pumila): This is the first time we are able to offer this lovely species. It is extremely hard to find Chinkapin with its chestnut-like nuts in our region because of habitat loss, and it won’t be available every year. It is fairly quick growing once established. We decided to distribute it this fall because it’s better that the seedlings be planted in the ground now than to sit in pots at our nursery during the winter.

Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis): In moist open areas or at the edge of pond or stream, this multi-stemmed shrub will produce beautiful flowers and abundant fruits for birds. It acts like a salad bar for birds. You can also make jams out of fruits. This shrub would love to stand in water as well but also works well in ordinary soil. You can easily tame/control them by cutting the stems. It won’t hurt them.

Whorled Rosin Weed (Silphium asteriscus var. trifoliatum): If you like Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) which is not native, you will love this plant. It is 4 to 6 feet tall and upright and produces pale yellow flowers in summer. You see them in moist open meadows in Manassas, Centerville, or other power line meadow sites.

Broadleaf Ironweed (Vernonia glauca): It looks a lot like New York Ironweed except that it grows in open meadows. It attracts lots of butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Slender Bush Clover (Lespedeza virginica) & Hairy Bush Clover (Lespedeza hirta): To me, this is a must plant for open meadow. They offer important nectar as well as seed sources for birds and others. Lespedeza is largely overlooked by gardeners.

Tick-trefoil (Desmodium spp.: D. paniculatum, D. ciliare, D. marilandicum): I’m a big fan of all Desmodium species. Their intricate purple flowers attract lots of insects. They fix nitrogen in soil. They grow in open meadows and on sandy or rocky banks.

Downy Blue Lobelia (Lobelia puberula): You will find this elegant Lobelia more in the coastal region. I spotted at least two great habitats. They grow on moist sunny and sandy banks in groups. Their blue flowers begin in mid summer with its peak in September. It attracts lots of butterflies and bees. Continue reading

Cats Preying on Wildlife: Natural or Not?

Cat with hapless prey. Photo by Gaëtan Priour courtesy American Bird Conservancy.

Cat with hapless prey. Photo by Gaëtan Priour courtesy American Bird Conservancy.

Free-roaming cats are a common sight in our suburban neighborhoods, but the toll they take on native wildlife often remains invisible. According to a 2013 study sponsored by the Smithsonian and the Fish and Wildlife Service, domestic cats (many of them feral) kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals yearly. These numbers do not include prey that may escape with injuries that later prove fatal, nor do they take into account diminished breeding in birds threatened by cats. As the New York Times summed it up, “that cuddly kitty is deadlier than you think.”

Justified Behavior

Allowing pet cats outdoors is often justified as supporting “natural” feline behavior. It is true that cats have evolved as hunters and carnivores: their instinct to stalk, trap, and kill is hard-wired and is not controlled by hunger. But from an environmental point of view, predation by pet cats operates under distinctly unnatural conditions. House cats are in effect “subsidized predators,” protected by their owners from factors that would control their population numbers in the wild: disease, starvation, and being hunted by other animals. This disrupts the natural equilibrium between prey and predator, with disastrous results for local wildlife.

Indoor cats can be happy

Keeping pet cats indoors serves the best interests of cats, birds, and small mammals. Indoor cats live longer and healthier lives than their outdoor counterparts and can be equally content with some help from their owners. The Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Initiative offers valuable advice about addressing cats’ needs. Window perches and screened enclosures can give house cats a safe taste of the outside world. Owners can satisfy cats’ natural instinct to hunt with toys chosen to model their pet’s preference for particular kinds of prey.

Birds and other wildlife face many stresses in our suburban environment. Keeping cats indoors can play a significant role in reducing them.

Many thanks to Rosemary Jann, Virginia Master Naturalist and indoor cat owner, for allowing choosenatives.org to post her article.

Do Not Plant: Bradford Pear

The asian import, Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana), commonly called Bradford Pear, is an ornamental tree that’s widely used in landscaping.  It has, like so many other nursery-grown plants, escaped from residential and commercial land and is designated as invasive in more than half of our states.  This tree greedily invades natural habitats and out-competes our valuable native species for resources.

Invasive Callery or Bradford Pear blooming in spring.

An ever-mulitiplying patch of invasive Callery or Bradford Pear blooming in spring.

‘Do not plant’ is the official advice regarding this invasive.  I’d like to add, ‘Do not propagate’ and ‘Do not sell.’  Please!  Unfortunately the Bradford Pear is legal to sell here in Virginia and I suspect this is the case in most of the states it’s sunk its insidious roots into.

People think this white-flowering tree is pretty but if ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ I see this as one unsightly tree. Here are some handsome Mid-Atlantic native alternatives to the Callery Pear for your consideration (sources noted below):

ALTERNATIVE NATIVE TREES

Common/Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Light Reqirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Canadian Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Allegheny Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

American Hornbeam/Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Cockspur Hawthorne (Crataegus crus-galli)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Green Hawthorne (Crataegus viridis)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Sweet Crabapple (Malus coronaria)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)
Note: this tree can grow to 100’
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
Note: Not recommended for urban areas
Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

American Plum/Wild Plum (Prunus americana)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist>
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia)
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Southern Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Black Haw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The best plan is to use local ecotypes (plants native to your area) that grow in the same conditions as your garden’s.  Soil pH, light and moisture should be taken into consideration before planting to insure long term success.

Sources:

City of Columbia, Missouri

Invasive.org

National Park Service

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

US Fish & Wildlife Service
Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping, Chesapeake Bay Watershed

USDA Forest Service