As we talked about in our last column, we are concentrating on native plants to study and purchase in our area. Again, the benefits of helping to restore biodiversity in our environment are multifold and crucial. The invasive, purely decorative and chemicalized landscape “norm” is counterproductive to the quest for healthy land, air and water.
Last week we highlighted Joe Russell and his Summersweet Native Plants company. We will be featuring additional opportunities to get advice and to purchase native plants. Now, we would like to step back and identify some of the most desirable plants, shrubs and trees. These will get us all a long way toward the native plant connectivity that is needed to help keep our native pollinators and wild processes alive. The idea of a Homegrown National Park, as espoused by Doug Tallamy at homegrownnationalpark.org is focused on the effect that each of us can have, positively, on our environment and the dynamics of biodiversity.
This week we look at suggestions made by Jesse Connor, local native plant enthusiast, who has compiled a list of native pollinator plants. These native perennials, shrubs and trees provide nectar and/or pollen for local pollinators including bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths and flies. Nearly all are also host plants for beneficial insects in all of their stages. Host plants are crucially important because they provide ecosystem services that are essential to a fully functioning landscape and for food supplies.
Jesse Connor’s recommendations for host plants are as follows:
A. Native perennials: anise hyssop, asters, bee balms, blazing star, blue mistflower, blue wild indigo, milkweeds, columbine, cutleaf coneflower, false sunflower, foxglove beardtongue, goldenrods, Joe Pye weeds, mountain mint, New York ironweed, phlox, purple coneflower, vervains, wild geranium, wild quinine.
B. Native Shrubs: beach plum, chokeberries, dogwoods, groundsel bush, highbush blueberry, inkberry holly, meadowsweet, New Jersey tea, ninebark, shadbush, sweet pepperbush, sweetspire and viburnum.
C. Native Trees: American holly, basswood, black cherry, black locust, crabapple, eastern redbud, red maple, black gum (Tupelo), tulip tree, red cedar, and very importantly, the family of oak trees, mainly white oak, southern and northern red oak, chestnut oak, pin oak, willow oak, post oak, black oak, bear oak, blackjack oak and swamp white oak.
There are some acceptable nonnative, noninvasive perennials that are especially beneficial to pollinators: sedum spectabalis, chives, lavender and oregano.
There are also acceptable nonnative, noninvasive annuals: pentas, Brazilian verbena, globe amaranth, Mexican sunflower and old fashioned zinnias. Some nonnative lawn weeds, white clover for example, provide nectar and pollen early in the spring. We can manage our lawns with this in mind by raising the lawnmower blade height to 3”-4”.
Some natives that are excellent pollinator plants but require wet soil are buttonbush, pickerelweed and jewelweed.
This is a general guide and there are many more helpful native plants. It is very important when searching in large nurseries or big box stores that you be aware of neonicitinoids and other pesticides that may be used on plants or actually genetically infused in them. Find out for sure, because plants treated in this way will kill both beneficial caterpillars, adult butterflies and moths, and upset a natural biosystem.
Stay tuned for more on native plants and green infrastructure for your yard and community. For more information, see the above site of Homegrown National Park, the Southeast Chapter tab of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey atnpsnj.org, the South Jersey Butterfly Project at blogs.stockton.edu/sjbfs or Go Green Galloway by email email@example.com or by calling 609-742-7076.
Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.