Cape Conservation Corps Fall Native Plant Fest & Sale

By Stacey Wildberger

What can we say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said?  Everything has been cancelled or “postponed” or reimagined.  This year nothing has been the same but people have found a way to persevere, find new hobbies, spend quiet time with their families, and escape the hustle and bustle of life.  After much thought Cape Conservation Corps is pushing forward for their annual Fall Native Plant Fest and Sale with of course a few modifications.  We will of course be following all state and local protocols for social distancing, including requiring masks to be worn.  If anything changes before the sale we will make adjustments up to and including online orders with curbside pickups but for now the sale is ON! 

We are once again offering a variety of native plants that will bring all the pollinators to your yard, contribute to a healthy ecosystem and create a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy.  The selection of plants will include many fall bloomers for show stopping autumn color and fuel for migrating butterflies as well as summer bloomers, ferns, groundcovers, grasses and my favorite group the grass-like sedges.  Many of these are host plants for butterflies and moths, offer nesting sites for overwintering insects (the hollow stems of Joe-Pye Weed) and food sources for birds, small mammals and pollinators.  We will have sun loving plants as well as many plants ideal for the shady gardens of the Cape! 

Ferns- We will have three varieties of ferns this year in a quart size.  They will include Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern, Athyrium filix-femina Lady fern and Dryopteris marginalis Eastern wood fern.  These make great additions to your shaded woody areas.

Christmas Fern

Groundcovers- There will be several groundcovers to create that “green” layer to reduce our dependency on mulch.  Plants make the best “mulch’ to suppress weeds.  Our selection includes, Chrysogonum virginianum Green and gold, my favorite work horse that will outcompete invasive plants Packera aurea golden ragwort, Antennaria plantaginifolia plantain-leaf pussytoes – the host plant of the American Painted Lady butterfly.  Low growing Phlox stolonifera and Phlox subulata will be on hand for your early blooming needs as well as Salvia lyrata “purple knockout” lyre-leaf sage.  Did you know there is a great native Pachysandra- Pachysandra procumbens?  Well, we will have it too.  While it is a slow grower, it makes a beautiful shade groundcover. We will also have four species of Carex sedges that make groundcovers.  My favorite is Carex pensylvanica– perfect for the dry shade.

Carex pensylvanica

Grasses- Our selection of grasses include the upright Switchgrass Panicum virgatum “North Wind” which will give structure to the landscape, Schizachyrium scoparium Little bluestem that will withstand the toughest conditions and Muhlenbergia capillaris Pink muhly grass for the beautiful foliage.

Little Bluestem

There is a long list of early to late summer bloomers that will offer all the nectar the butterflies and other pollinators are looking for from Amsonia, Eupatorium dubium Joe-Pye Weed, Chelone glabra Turtlehead, Echinacea purpurea Purple coneflower, Swallowtail magnet Phlox “Jeane”, Lobelia siphilitica great (blue) cardinal flower, and Vernonia noveboracensis  New York ironweed – a towering 6-8’ tall beauty.

Great (blue) cardinal flower

What’s a fall sale without fall bloomers?  We will have several varieties of Solidago Goldenrod and Asters that the fall migrating monarchs need to fuel up for their long trip ahead.  In addition to the butterflies you will see a high number of bees and other insects on these.  There are Goldenrods and Asters for the sunny to part shade to shade areas of your yard

Don’t worry we didn’t forget Asceplias sp. Milkweed.  We will have two – Swamp milkweed (pinkish) and Butterfly weed (orange).  As we know they are the host plants of the much beloved Monarchs but don’t forget there are many species of butterflies and moths that have specific host plant requirements and we will have those too!  These include the Turtlehead (Baltimore checkered spot), Pussytoes (American Painted lady), Panicum for a variety of Skippers. Solidago Goldenrod, and Asters are the top two host plants for a number of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). And did I mention the super low prices: quarts $4, gallons $6 and assorted prices of flats of plugs (16-25 count trays?  Experts on hand, including Nancy Lawson author and wildlife blogger.  See you there (from a distance of course!)

Importance of Planting for Specialist Bees & Pollinators

By: Stacey Wildberger

“Let’s stop saying a flowering plant is a pollinator magnet because you see adults from a generalist insect species visiting the blooms (hello, bumble bees). Too often we greenwash human privilege and supremacy by assuming that because something is using a plant we find pretty, whether exotic or native, then the plant must be providing essential ecosystem services to insects and bugs.” Benjamin Vogt, author of “A New Garden Ethic”

One of the reasons why native plants are so important to use in our landscapes is because of their relationship to the local fauna.  Native flora and fauna have co-evolved together for thousands of years and have come to rely on one another for survival.  Many species have developed a specialist relationship with a particular family or even species of plant for life sustaining purposes.  They often can only use them for laying their eggs as a host plant or gather nectar for food for themselves.  Without having their particular plant species they will not survive.  There are generalist species that can feed on a wild variety of plants while the specialist are limited to specific plants.  We need to use the native plants that cater to the specialists because the generalists can also us those plants as well.  Generalist bees account for 80% of the total wild bee population and the 20% are specialized. IF you plant for specialist the generalist will be provided for as they aren’t so picky! 

As our speaker last year, Sam Droege, a USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Biologist said “if the plants are not there, the pollinators will not be there”.  Plant diversity equates bee diversity!  I encourage you to read this great write up of another of Sam’s recent talks to understand the need to plant the plants the specialized require:

https://vnps.org/specialist-bees-need-special-plants/  (this page also includes a great link to many more specialist plants for bees.)

 Trees and shrubs that are important to specialist bees include Salix Willow, Ceris Canadensis Redbud, Cornus Dogwoods, and Ilex verticillata Winterberry.  Plants in the Solidago Goldenrods Symphytrichum Asters and Helianthus Sunflowers families are the top plants for specialized bees, as well as Oenethera Evening primrose and Pontederia cordata Pickerelweed.

Letter of support to AA Co Executive

Here is the letter that CCC sent to Steuart Pittman as thanks for his support of Cape St Claire to the Main Beach restoration, in spite of the construction of a new boat dock in that location. The beach restoration hopefully will be a major environmental improvement to our shoreline.

What’s Happening at the Serene Ravine

By Stacey Wildberger

Weed pulling is in (almost) full swing as the Wednesday Weed Warriors have been cautiously meeting on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 6:45 to pull invasive weeds such as garlic mustard, bush killer, dames rocket and money plant to name a few.  We started the season with Wine in the Weeds kickoff where we had many new volunteers interested in helping out but unfortunately due to COVID 19 concerns most have been unable to participate.  We look forward to seeing everyone come out and attack the invasive plants when we return to normal! The CCC board members still meet in small groups of 3-4 with plenty of socially distancing to work on Wednesday evenings to try to get ahead of those nasty plants.

On Saturday April 25th we also arranged to add over 350 plugs of three Carex species (a grass like plant) and more Packera Aurea to naturally combat the garlic mustard to the Serene Ravine.  We had a small group of people working at a safe distant apart and we quickly got all the plants in the ground.  Mother Nature helped us out by watering it the next day and into the following week. 

Packera Aurea in Serene Ravine (by Stacey Wildberger)

Speaking of the Packera Aurea, that experiment is going great!  We planted hundreds of plugs last spring and fall to naturally suppress the garlic mustard and it is working.  We planted about 10-12 plants per 5’ circle in high garlic mustard areas and many of the circles are completely filled in with the Packera Aurea and spreading outside of the circles as well.  I have found little to no traces of garlic mustard in those areas.  The Packera Aurea has been in full bloom from the end of March to now as I write this.  The colorful display is not only attractive to early season pollinators but also pedestrians walking by.  The eye catching pop of color draws walkers in to the path.  Once there they discover the wonder, beauty and tranquility of the Serene Ravine.  We have several snakes, frogs, insects and birds making their home there.   Cape resident Louise Zeitlin spotted a red shouldered hawk and a palm warbler on her first visit.  She quickly fell in love with the splendor and nature of the Ravine that she decided to give back to the community by painting rocks with messages and hiding them along the path for kids and adults to discover.  Others followed suit and added their own! Please be sure to take a quick detour if you are walking past on Lake Claire Dr. and see for yourself.

Red Shouldered Hawk (by Louise Zeitlin)
Palm Warbler (by Louise Zeitlin)

We are looking to add more plants to attract wildlife, as well as humans, increase the biodiversity, slow run runoff and control erosion.  Plants on my wish list include woodland phlox, mayapples, skunk cabbage, white wood aster, goldenrod and ferns.  We will continue to fight invasive plants, mulch the path and add native plants.  If you are interested in helping out in a socially distant way or becoming involved at a later time please email me at president@capeconservationcorps.org

Top 5 Ways to be Habitat Hero

  1. Plant native plants- they have co-evolved along the native species that use them.
  2.  Be sure to always have multiple plants in bloom thorough out each season in a variety of color, shape and size.
  3.  Provide a clean water source such as a bird bath or pond
  4.  Eliminate the use of pesticides- use IPM (for every pest there are natural predators).  Let nature do its job.
  5.  Let fallen leaves, branches lay (or move them to a designated area so nesting bees and other overwintering insects have a safe place.  It will also attract birds to the pile looking for tidbits!
Sedum ternatum White Stonecrop (by Stacey Wildberger)
Salvia lyrate Lyre Leaf Sage (by Stacey Wildberger)

Spotlight on Native Host Plants: Two Powerhouse Perennials

By: Stacey Wildberger

The last couple months have been an interesting time in our lives, unprecedented actually.  I hope everyone is staying safe, healthy and mentally healthy!! Since our schedules were cleared for us many have been able to spend lots of quality time in our gardens, getting our flower beds refreshed and cleaned up, preparing to plant veggies and just taking time to enjoy what nature has to offer in our backyard.  Many Capers can be seen strolling the community with kids and dogs in tow just to take a break from being in the house.  So many of us our spending extra time outside in our gardens and own backyards, possibly planning a new garden bed or thinking about what plants to add this year to make a more pollinator friendly landscape or healthy habitat for the local fauna.  So, let’s take a look at a few top native plants to support biodiversity in our area.  These are some plants that support the most number of Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species- the plants they need to lay their eggs on- the #1 Top Rated Host Plants!

Wrinkleleaf goldenrod

Let’s start with the top 2 perennials, both of which bloom in the fall so they not only are the best host plants you can add to your landscape but also will benefit the fall migrating butterflies, mainly the much loved Monarch butterfly. 

Blue stem goldenrod

Solidago goldenrod are available in many species so there is sure to be one that fits your conditions.  These pollinator magnets and top host plants support 115 species of Lepidoptera.  Several caterpillars that feast on goldenrod include the brown-hooded owlet, the camouflaged looper, the common pug, the striped garden caterpillar, and the goldenrod gall moth.  In addition to being a host plant, goldenrods attract a great many pollinators, including solitary wasps, soldier beetles, mining bees, the polyester bees as well as many other specialized native bees.  Butterflies that will frequent your goldenrod include the Monarch, Hairstreaks, and Painted Ladies.  I have also seen many birds feasting on their seed heads, including sparrows, chickadees, juncos, and downy woodpeckers. There are several species that will work well for our Cape gardens, find one that matches your conditions and you will provide food, shelter and happiness for so many species of butterflies, moths, birds and a large variety of other insects!  Solidago rugosa wrinkleleaf or rough-stemmed goldenrod can handle moist to average soil in full sun, it will grow between 1-6’ depending on the conditions. 

Canadian goldenrod

A common cultivar is “fireworks” that stays about 2-3’ so it works well in the garden.  If you are like many in the Cape you often have shade, so look for a more shade tolerant species such as Solidago caesia wreath or blue stem goldenrod.  This particular species is 1-3” and can handle full sun to part shade and dry to medium soil.  Another option for full sun is Solidago canadensis Canadian goldenrod (an MD native despite the name).  It ranges from 4-5’ and prefers medium soil and full sun.  And finally if you are lucky enough to have a moist sunny spot you could use Solidago sempervirens seaside goldenrod (picture as header), 3-6’ in height this salt tolerant variety will be a great addition to your moist to average soil areas.  One last note of interest Goldenrods DO NOT cause sneezing and hay fever.  They are insect pollinated plants, not wind pollinated and are not the culprit to fall allergies (do not confuse it them with ragweed).

New England Aster

The next powerhouse group of perennials are another group of fall blooming plants, Asters.  Their striking purple blooms make a beautiful combination with the aforementioned goldenrods.  The purple of the Asters and the golden yellows of the goldenrods are a can’t miss autumn display that is sure to bring in the butterflies and pollinators.  Asters are the host plant to 112 species of Lepidoptera including pearl crescents, northern crescents, tawny crescents, field crescents, silvery checkerspots, brown-hooded owlets, camouflaged loopers, common pugs, and striped garden caterpillars.  Additionally, they are another strong source of nectar and pollen for migrating butterflies and fall foraging insects. 

Smooth blue aster

There are many varieties, so you should be able to find ones to suit your yard.  Aster novae-angliae New England Aster is popular for full to part sun in dry to average areas with a height of 2’ it would complement your landscape well. The violet bloom last from September well into late October.  Another full sun with dry to medium soil requirements is a smaller 1-2’ is the Symphyotrichum laeve smooth blue aster with blue-purple bloom and a yellow center it will sure to be a spectacular addition to the fall blooming garden.  If you are looking for a shade tolerant aster look no further than Eurybia divaricata white wood aster.  Another fall blooming plant this one tolerates part to full shade with dry to medium soil.  It has small white bloom with yellow centers.   

White wood aster

For a complete list of woody and perennial hosts plants click on the link https://enst.umd.edu/sites/enst.umd.edu/files/_docs/Table%201%20from%20Doug%20Tallamy%20Sheet1.pdf

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