Tag Archives: Native plants

New Arrivals at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

August 11, 2016

Lathrop has more than 30 new arrivals–full-grown native meadow wildflowers, some of them 5 feet tall.  They came from a unique restored native meadow in Housatonic that had to be dismantled.  So native plant lovers came from all over last Saturday  to dig up and take home these valuable plants for a small amount of money.


About 100 people showed up–mostly strong young folks with pickup trucks and big tubs and carts.  Adele and Jim Dowell, Sharon Grace, and I were clearly the oldest people there.  The plants bound for Lathrop were dug up with the size root ball that we Lathrop residents could dig, heaved into whatever pots we had scrounged up, bent into cars not made for nursery transportation,  and dropped into holes that were only as deep as we could dig.

But native plants are tough.  Our new Culver’s root, New York ironweed, obedient plants, oxeye sunflowers, big bluestem, and others are now settled into the Cranberry meadow or behind the Huckleberry houses.  Within minutes of the planting, butterflies arrived.

Adele Dowell admires the new native plants from Helia now finding a new home in the Cranberrhy Meadow

Why is this so important?  Here’s the key statistic: 96% of birds needs insects, not just seeds and nectar, to raise their young.  90% of insects eat only native plants (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home).

Lathrop’s meadows contain many native plants, but species diversity is narrow.  These new plants will add diversity, support our birds and butterflies, astonish us with their beauty, and make us proud to have taken our shovels and pots and our little cars, and saved those plants and their seeds to enrich our Lathrop land.


Two Ways You Can Help our Native Wildflowers Now

by Barbara Walvoord

Our native woodland wild flowers, like Indian pipe, jack-in-the-pulpit, mayflower, and  trout lily, not only lift our hearts with their beauty, but support our food chains. 96% of birds need insects, not just nectar and seeds, to raise their young.  90% of insects eat only native plants (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home). Invasive plants crowd out our native wildflowers and reduce wildlife.

  1. Don’t dump plants (especially ground cover), plant parts, or soil in the woods.  Patches of our land on both campuses are already covered with alien invasives like ivy, vinca, pachysandra, and bishop’s weed, crowding out native wildflowers.
  2. If you can, go into the woods on either campus and pull garlic mustard, one of the most dangerous invasives for our U.S. woodlands (http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/indiana/journeywithnature/garlic-mustard.xml).  If the plant has not yet formed blossoms, you can leave it there; if it has blossoms, remove it, because, even when pulled, the blossoms can develop seeds.  A single garlic mustard plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which are viable in the soil for up to 7 years.

Continue reading Two Ways You Can Help our Native Wildflowers Now

Still Green at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

If you walk through our woods at either campus this time of year, you may spot mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), still sporting its shiny, oblong green leaves among the brown, bare branches of our oaks and maples. I took this photo on January 12, 2016, at the far west end of Mulberry Meadow, near Bassett Brook, which you can see in the background, with its border of snow.

Mountain laurel’s beautiful flowers have an unusual way of dispersing their pollen. Many other flowers lift their stamens, covered with pollen, and passively wait for an insect to crawl around Continue reading Still Green at Lathrop

Serviceberries at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

All summer, we’ve feasted on local strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries–all done, now.

But as we walk our land, we see a huge store of berries still available for our birds, bears, chipmunks, and other creatures.

One of the most beautiful berry bushes at this time of the year is the native serviceberry, also known as shadbush or Juneberry (Amelanchier). Those odd names go back to colonial times, to human events tied to the cycles of nature.

“Serviceberry” trees unfold clouds of white blossoms just at the time when circuit preachers, immobilized by winter, could again visit the villages to lead worship services and funerals to bury the dead, who had been in storage all winter, awaiting the thaw, so graves could be dug.

The “shadbush” blossoms also herald the return of the immense schools of shad in New England rivers, swimming up from the ocean Continue reading Serviceberries at Lathrop

A View from the Bridge #2: Touch-Me-Not

by Barbara Walvoord

If you walk along Bassett Brook Road across the bridge, or if you walk down to the garden on either campus, you’ll see the delicate orange or yellow blossoms of native touch-me-not, also called jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). It like moist conditions, at least partial shade, and acid soil–perfect for Lathrop. Plants can grow up to five feet high, often in dense clumps. The stems are watery and translucent, easily crushed.

Why the name jewelweed? One source says that dew forms on the lips of the flowers, catching the sun like jewels. Another version is that the delicate flowers hang, each from a single thin stem, like jewels. It’s called touch-me-not because the slender green seed pods, which are forming now, will explosively burst open at a touch, spewing tiny seeds in all directions.

These seeds are its only way of reproducing, since jewelweed is an annual. The seeds need “double dormancy”–that is, they have to Continue reading A View from the Bridge #2: Touch-Me-Not

A View from the Bridge, #1

by Barbara Walvoord

Walk along Bassett Brook Road just below Blueberry Lane, and stand on the stone bridge, looking down into the stream and wetland.

There’s lots to see.

The reason for the bridge is a marsh and a small, many-branched stream that crosses under the road via a concrete viaduct.

The bridge and viaduct are part of an extensive drainage system installed to protect the flow of water through our wetlands, despite the fact that houses and roads were built here.

The wetland, stream, and bridge create a unique environment. What lives here?

Those very tall plants you see, with oblong, deeply-lobed leaves shaped like dandelion leaves, are wild lettuce (Lactuca Canadensis).

wild lettuce crop bridge, reconstruction 017

At the top of the plant, you’ll see many small, white flowers on multiple branches. Continue reading A View from the Bridge, #1

A Butterfly’s Guide to Plants

by Barbara Walvoord

So you’re a butterfly. You need nectar to eat. Plants do their best to produce nectar that you and lots of other insects can eat, because they want you to come for the nectar, get your body full of pollen (which carries the male seed), and carry the pollen to female parts of the same or other plants. Alien plants that have come here from Asia, Europe, or Africa also make nectar, and if the plant structure allows you to get your mouth in there, you can get their nectar. Great! A butterfly garden with alien plants works quite well for nectar. Butterfly bush? It’s an alien, classified as invasive, but who cares? It has nectar. Bring it on. Purple loosestrife? Sure, it’s taking over wetlands and driving out turtles and ducks, but who cares? It has nectar. Bring it on!

BUT WAIT. As a butterfly, you came from a larva–a caterpillar. The larva hatched from an egg laid on a plant by a female butterfly. As a responsible mama butterfly, you want to lay your eggs only on plants that your larvae can eat. As a larva, you don’t eat nectar–you eat leaves or stems. And not just any leaf–only the leaves of one, or perhaps just a few, plants.

Plants don’t like to be eaten, so they develop chemistry hostile to larvae. But YOUR larvae have developed ways to overcome the defenses of one, or a few, species of plants. If you’re a black swallowtail larva, only plants in the carrot family. If you’re a monarch larva, only milkweed.

That’s why a gardener who wants to support butterflies can choose nectar-producing plants, but also “host” plants that larvae can eat.

In our meadows at Lathrop now, you’ll see blooming some common natives on which butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) are very busy laying their eggs. Native aster supports 105 species of Lepidoptera, sunflower 73, and Joe Pye weed 40. At our meadow edges, native cranberry supports 286 species of Lepidoptera, serviceberry 119, and dogwood 115. In our forests, oak supports 518 species, and maple supports 287 (http://udel.edu/~dtallamy/host/). Controlling invasive plants helps keeps our land a rich nursery for butterflies. At Lathrop, we strive not only to PLANT butterfly gardens, but to BE a butterfly garden.