Category Archives: Native plants

Birds! The Lathrop Cafeterias are Open All Winter

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 10-16, 2018

Birds—you’ll be happy to know that Lathrop’s “Native Garden,” “Meadows,” and “Forest” cafeterias will remain open all winter.  We had to brush hog 1/3 of our east campus meadows so they don’t turn into a woods, but we left 2/3 of them standing.  The Inn native garden, and some resident gardens on both campuses, leave seed-pods standing, so you can get to them even when it snows.  Both campuses also have many shrubs and trees with seeds or berries.

Birds, note in the photo above that some of the seeds in our Inn garden are already eaten, so get yours early, like this goldfinch!

American Goldfinch Facts: An American Goldfinch pulling seeds from a seedhead.

We’ve been trying to eliminate the “junk food” section of our cafeteria– invasive shrub honeysuckle,  Japanese barberry, burning bush, multiflora rose, buckthorn,and oriental bittersweet.  A resident ornithologist calls them “bird candy,” because they’re not as nutritious for you as native berries.  Even worse, non-native buckthorn berries give you diarrhea, which weakens you, so avoid those especially. Instead, in our winter cafeterias we have been working hard to provide healthy foods like native winterberries, maple-leaf viburnum, chokeberry, and crabapples.


Our Lathrop Nursery

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of August 18-24, 2018

Resident Alice Richardson clipped branches from a number of the native plants in the garden near Inn, and laid them out on a table as illustrations for the residents who would attend her talk last Tuesday.

At the presentation, a resident picked up a swamp milkweed branch from the table, and surprise—unbeknownst to Alice, there was a monarch butterfly chrysalis on it.

While Alice was talking, a monarch butterfly was flitting around the garden’s two species of milkweed—the only plant the monarch larvae can eat.  We residents remember when monarchs were Continue reading Our Lathrop Nursery

Pollinators Galore! The Native Plant Landscaped Area near the Inn

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post,  Aug. 18-24, 2018

On August 14, twenty residents attended Alice Richardson’s talk about the native plant landscaped area near the Inn, and the birds and pollinators it supports.  Installed last fall in an area with a large bare spot and several invasive shrubs, the garden has gone from puny plugs to glorious flower, abuzz with pollinators.  We asked designer Owen Wormser, of Abound Design, to stay between a very formal look (which native plants can do), and a meadow, so Owen placed shrubs for anchors, interspersed with wildflowers in drifts, taller in back and shorter in front, all bordered with native grasses and sedges. The garden was installed by residents with help from Jeff Allen, financial support from the Residents’ Association and the Land Conservation Committee, and help from Facilities. Continue reading Pollinators Galore! The Native Plant Landscaped Area near the Inn

The Lathrop Strawberry Festival

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 30-July 13, 2018

Strawberry shortcake, strawberries on cereal, strawberries with cream.  Just down the road from the north campus the other day, I bought two pints of Hadley strawberries that were some of the best Sharon and I had ever eaten.  Yum!

And Lathrop’s wild strawberries are blooming in our woods, some in areas where we cleared invasive plants that were choking them out.  As the delicate white blossoms dot the floor of our forests and glades, creatures are also saying, “Oh, yum—strawberries!”

Here’s who researchers found at nature’s own strawberry festival in a Michigan woods:  lighting on blossoms, leaves, or stems were sweat bees, carpenter bees, chalcid wasps, jumping spiders, , dancing wasps, ichnuemon wasps, gall wasps, leafhoppers, thrips, froghoppers, weevils, aphids, root-maggot flies. and braconid wasps like this one.

I guess this is what botany graduate students do: lie on the ground with magnifying glasses in hand, counting all the insects that land on a wild strawberry plant.  Continue reading The Lathrop Strawberry Festival


by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 23-29, 2018

Well, finally, something native is blooming in the native plant landscaped area near the Inn.

Last year, with money from the Residents’ Council and the Land Conservation Committee, and help from Facilities, we planted native shrubs and wildflowers that will nourish butterflies and birds better than the alien plants they replaced.  We used plugs instead of larger plants to save money, so they looked pretty puny earlier this spring.

To our embarrassment, however, there WERE robust plants and lovely early-spring blooms in our supposedly all-native garden—the Continue reading Finally!

Coneflower: A Butterfly’s View

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 9-15, 2018

Compare these two coneflowers: the one above, and this one:

Now here’s a story about them.

Suppose you wanted to provide food for pollinators and birds.  So you decide to plant some native plants.   You research the native wildflowers that are high in value to wildlife and that fit your garden in terms of color, bloom time, and soil/sun preferences.  You find that purple coneflower pictured at the top of this article (Echinacea purpurea)  provides pollen and nectar many butterflies: American lady, giant swallowtail, great spangled fritillary, painted lady, pearl crescent, red admiral, silvery checkerspot, spicebush swallowtail, eastern tiger swallowtail, variegated fritillary, viceroy, fiery skipper, gulf fritillary, sachem, tawny-edged skipper, and more.  Wow!  It supports the larvae of the silvery checkerspot butterfly. Its seeds are loved by birds, especially goldfinches.

You go to the nursery, and they show you a variety called Echinacea purpurea ‘Razzmatazz’.  It looks different from the “straight” native coneflowers you’ve seen in your research. It has huge double blooms instead of single blooms, and a deep lavender color.  Gorgeous!


You buy it and plant it.  But one morning you find a little note tacked to the plant: “I came to this coneflower for pollen, but these are double blooms, so I can’t get in.  Signed, Burt the Bee.”   Later in the fall, you find another note: “I came to this coneflower for seeds, but Continue reading Coneflower: A Butterfly’s View

Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 10-16, 2018.

Why are we at Lathrop considering planting native plants rather than alien plants in our landscapes and gardens?  Our goal is NOT to restore some imaginary pristine past.  The futility of such a goal is emphasized in journalist Emma Marris’ The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2011).

Instead, Marris suggests, we need to save nature by juggling seven possible goals: (1) protect the rights of other species; (2) protect Continue reading Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?