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Great Natives Of Mid-western Ecotype

February 1, 2009




Native on the Net


Best Books


Organization Spotlight


Native News


Planting with a Purpose


Birds and WNV




Fantastic Fauna


Focus on the Future


Did you know... •

Commercial “Bug Zappers” primarily only kill beneficial insects and not mosquitoes? Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2 ,not light. Japanese Beetle scented traps actually attract MORE beetles than you would normally have? Give one to your neighbor instead!

In a new report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides a bleak outlook for climate change for the next millennium. The bottom line? The effects of our current carbon dioxide emissions will be largely irreversible for at least the next one thousand years even if emissions were stopped completely today. Susan Solomon, a senior scientist with NOAA based in the Earth System Research Laboratory states “Our study convinced us that current choices regarding carbon dioxide emissions will have legacies that will irreversibly change the planet.”

Global warming for the next millennium...

Later this year, a meeting with over 170 countries will convene in CoThat well be disheartening news penhagen. This Climate Conferto many. I know that it was to ence will look into global climate me. But I feel that it creates a change and also at the Kyoto Proclear and finally undeniable tocol that will expire in 2012, with statement to the world– global- hope of a new protocol. ized action is not only needed, but essential for preserving our Despite such a negative outlook on planet for human habitation. the future of our warming planet, remember that change can only



happen if we make it happen. Each one of us has a part to play. Governments can set limits and make goals, but it is the people that effect the change. It is inconceivable to entirely stop CO2 emissions today. But small cumulative changes add up to a lot. Do your part.


Nothing is better than stretching your brain a little. The role of this word game is to get you thinking a bit! Look for the word gnome within the text (no logo). I will vary the ways it is pre-

sented. It might be the first letters of five consecutive sentences, it might be crossword style, or something more creative. Let me know if you find it and maybe I will include your name in the next GNOME News!

No one let me know that they found the “gnome” last month. It was the beginning letter of each of the five consecutive sections starting with The Big Picture. Good luck finding it this month– let me know if you do!

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Pycnanthemum virginianum– Mountain Mint Our new site should make it easier to participate in “Name that Native” . Check it out and see if you can name it! Lat month’s plant was not your usual commoner. It was the mountain mint plantPycnanthemum virginianum

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” ~Confucius

This plant can grow to be three feet tall and usually tends to have a thick or bushy appearance. Unlike some of the other mints in this family, it is not picky about where it grows. In fact, I find this is the only native I have grown that I would qualify as aggressive.

Mountain mint will bring insects to your garden and dried leaves make GREAT tea!



Going native has never been easier! Native plant sources can be difficult to locate. Online resources are invaluable in this search. My goal with this section is to narrow down those resources. Every month a new site will be featured. This month’s featured site is :


plant and most of these insects seek nectar. This plant is not typically bothered by insects or mammals evidentially due to its strong mint fragrance.

This plant typically has small white blooms and will bloom for a long period of time as new growth matures.

As I mentioned before, this plant has been aggressive in my plantings. Location should be with other plants that can hold their own space. Random pruning and pulling don’t seem to have an adverse effect on it.

Faunal associations include various bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles. Many insects are attracted by the blossoms of this

If you use yarrow, this plant is a good native substitute and has similar growth habits. Tea from the dried leaves is wonderful and good for upset stomachs!

NET Even though this site is based in Portland, OR, it has great national and regional Midwest resources listed. From the home page, one can find nurseries, plant lists, and organizations by state. You can also link to many other practical information sources including “how to” projects.

This site uses the term naturscaping instead of landscaping to relate the focus to its goal. The bottom line is biodiversity and sustainability. In addition to the mentioned “how-to” projects, you will also find a book section offering regional choices of related books for further reading and assistance.

BEST BOOKS– BRINGING NATURE HOME "The book evolved out of a

set of principles. So the message is loud and clear: gardeners could slow the rate of extinction by planting natives in their yards. This simple revelation about the food web—and it is an intricate web, not a chain—is the driving force in Bringing Nature Home." -Anne Raver, New York Times

As mentioned in December’s GNOME News, this book written by Douglas Tallamy is a great companion book to Birdscaping in the Midwest.

author focuses on native plants to create the necessary foundation for our own sustainability.

Using insects to demonstrate the interrelation of all living This book illustrates the importhings , the tance of insects in attracting and sustaining life itself.

Though technical in spots, it is well worth the time it takes to read. It will give you many ideas on keystone plants to add to your landscape!

G N O M E N ew s

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O RG A N I Z AT I O N S P O T L I G H T : E D U C A T I O N A L L AW & P O L I C Y C E N T E R “The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. We develop and lead successful strategic environmental advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural heritage.” taken from their website in the about us section. This organization is different from the others I have highlighted by the fact that it deals

with the legal side of conservation and preservation. It has a multidiscipline staff and also its own Scientific Advisory Board. Offices are located in many Midwestern states and addresses for these offices are easily found on their site.

Protecting the Midwest’s Environment and Natural Heritage

This organization is very broad is the spectrum of issues and causes it touches. From air and water quality, to green technologies designed to protect not only the natural areas, but our planet as a whole, this organization is a great one to look to for issues in your state and current

NATIVE NEWS: LOCAL In a recent study CSIRO Plant Industry scientist, Dr Linda Broadhurst and a team of researchers has found that using native seed from remnant populations to restore new areas might not be the best solution. Dr. Broadhurst states "It has been presumed that local seed is adapted to local conditions


SEED MIGHT NOT and therefore provides the best results for restoration projects. However, the research shows that where vegetation loss is high and across large areas, 'local' seed sources are often small and isolated and can be severely inbred resulting in poor seed crops. This can lead to germination failure and poor seedling growth."


information. This includes news and programs. There is no membership offered, but donations are accepted. This is a great organization for global advocacy with Midwestern focus!



"The current emphasis on using local seed sources for revegetation will, in many cases, lead to poor restoration outcomes," Dr Broadhurst says. "Our findings show that seed sourcing should concentrate less on collecting from local environments and more on capturing high quality and genetically diverse seed.”


WILDLIFE COMPONENTS TO REMEMBER Food, water, cover, and space. These four components are the keys to attracting wildlife to your property. Let’s look at some basics for each to consider putting into your plans this spring. Food: Many might consider putting up bird feeders enough for this component. The real key is plant diversity. Think of plants that naturally provide food all season long. Don’t forget in-

sect larval host plants in this mix. Water: Year-round sources are best for keeping animals coming back. This might be THE most attractive feature to increasing biodiversity in your yard. Cover: Layering vegetation is a com-

monly overlooked facet of cover. You need to create niches for all types of animals. Layers give you a great start ! Space: Remember that creatures and plants need space. Consider what green space you use and enhance the rest! Less lawn=more wildlife!

Wildlife has the same basic needs that we do. Enhance your components this spring!

“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.” ~Michael Pollan

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BIRD DIVERSITY PROVIDES WEST NILE BUFFER West Nile Virus (WNV) was first discovered in the United States in 1999. Originally discovered in 1937 in the West Nile District in Uganda, it has spread to a near global distribution. Since reaching the United States, WNV human, bird, veterinary or mosquito activity have been reported from all states except Hawaii, Alaska, and Oregon.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~Albert Einstein

Mosquitoes are the main transmitter of the WNV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (

reported over 1,300 cases in people in the US in 2008. That may not seem like very many cases in proportion to the population. But the prevalence of the virus is much higher than the cases indicate. WNV can cause very serious or fatal illness in some people, typically in very old or very young victims. This stated, approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all. Birds, horses, and other domestic animals can also suffer from this virus. It is these animals that are primary hosts that transmit the virus through blood to others– usually via mosquitoes. Some very common backyard visitors including sparrows, jays, and robins are “reservoir” species for the WNV. This provides a high probability for bird to human transfer. Robins are very anthrophilic birds. Frankly, they love being near people. Nesting on any flat surface they can find near dwellings as well as in trees and shrubs, I would wager anyone in the US that reads this will be able to find a nest this spring without looking too hard. But did you know that robins can also indicate a lack of plant diversity? A recent study has shed some light on backyard birds and the spread of West Nile Virus.

Biologists at Washington University in St. Louis have found that the more diverse a bird population is in an area, the less chance humans have of exposure to West Nile Virus (WNV). "The bottom line is that where there are more bird species in your backyard, you have much lower risk of contracting West Nile fever," said Brian Allan, doctoral candidate in biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. But it isn’t just about the number of species. Allen goes on to say that "It's a combination of richness - the number of species — and evenness — their relative proportions. In urban and suburban areas you see lower species richness and lower community evenness. For instance, you might have five species present, but in 100 animals 90 are just one species. That's why species number is only half the equation." Robins show a strong preference for short vegetation. Since they are fructivorous (fruit eaters) as well as insectivorous (eating mainly invertebrates), lawns provide prime habitat for the American Robin (Turdus migratorius). This is often in the form of monoculture grass. Simply put, the more grass lawn you have, the more robins your property can sustain (nest territory not included). So if bird diversity can reduce your risk of contracting this virus, it is logical that plant diversity is also essential. Reducing your lawn space with naturalized areas will not only increase your plant diversity, but will serve as a catalyst for increased insect, bird, and mammalian populations too. All this and a reduced chance of contracting the West Nile Virus! There is still time before planting season to make some plans. Think globally– plant locally! GO NATIVE!!!!

Robins are a sign of spring, but also a sign of lack of plant diversity.

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N A R ROW - L E AV E D B I T T E R C R E S S Cardamine impatiens is a new invader just taking hold in the Midwest. Not surprisingly, it is in the mustard family. Many are predicting the spread of this plant to be similar to that of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Michigan and Indiana are among the first states in the Midwest to report this invasive. The government map at right does not even list these states yet. The plant itself resembles natives Sand Bitter-cress and Pennsylvania Bitter-cress. The main distinguishing invasive feature is a narrow “point” at the base of the leaves near the stem. (see picture above map)

This plant inhabits moist woodlands and can be found along banks and thicket margin zones. It spreads easily from seeds shot from narrow pods.

Narrow-leaved Bittercress Distribution

Most states are wanting new populations to be reported. If you suspect you have found this plant, notify local DNR officials.

FANTASTIC FAUNA: DARK-EYED JUNCO The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a common winter visitor to Midwestern birdfeeders. In fact, Cornell University’s Project FeederWatch lists them as THE most common bird in some areas. This little sparrow is easily identified by its gray top and white underside. It also has distinctive white outer tail edges framing the gray topside. As easily as field identity is, ornithologists are still hotly debating the number of species/ subspecies that this bird has.

“Snowbird” is an appropriate nickname for these short distance migrants.

In the Midwest, these birds are migrants from more northern areas. They are usually associated with woodland areas. Eating both seeds and insects, they can often be found in flocks of 15-20 birds. I have observed several behaviors that I find interesting while the juncos visit my feeders. First, I think that it is captivating is that these birds keep an even spacing from other juncos (typically about a foot). This creates a perpetually moving matrix. Another interesting behavior is how they acquire seed that is still on the plant. One slate-colored junco I observed this year was feeding on little bluestem. It approached the plant, hopped on a culm at its base close to the ground, and proceeded to move up the stalk. The weight of the bird pinned the culm to the ground as it moved up to reach the seed heads. It did this with several culms, leaving them totally devoid of seed. While there is nothing profound about these things, it serves to show that, even in common species, behaviors are at least entertaining, if not fantastic.

“Some people say a man's best friend is the dog. Mine is Nature. “

~Ward Elliot Hour

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Great Natives of Mid-western Ecotype (GNOME) is an organization focused on the preservation and expansion of native floral and faunal species. The mission is to provide a netbased forum where members can share their passion, plans, ideas, and questions with other people having a common interest in native species.

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I really couldn’t believe it when I saw them– wild sandhill cranes! This was the first I had ever seen them. It is hard to not be impressed by such a large bird, but that was not why I was surprised. In elementary and middle school, I had a great science teacher named Mr. Van Cleave. One of the most memorable learning experiences was getting the yearly Endangered Species wildlife packet. It was a big white envelope and ,if memory serves me, it came from the US Fish and Wildlife Dept. I can remember images of bald eagles, black footed ferrets, whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, and even trumpeter swans being dis-

back into my view of humanity (I’ll be the first to state that I typically am a pessimist– just ask my wife). Bald eagles are now almost common in some locales and have been removed from the threatened list. I have seen wild cranes and even had a pair of unbanded trumpeter swans buzz our subdivision this fall. Sandhill Cranes in Wisconsin– 2008

cussed as species possibly to become extinct in my lifetime. Protection and reversing habitat destruction trends were always foremost in our talks and activities. Seeing these threatened species in the wild helps me to have hope for other species in decline. It puts some faith

It seems to me that environmental awareness is again on the rise. The newest generation will have tools that were unimaginable decades ago. Mr. Van Cleave proved to be a catalyst for my environmental thinking. I think that he had that affect on many. What a fitting legacy for him– what a difference maker. These rewards benefit everyone. I hope that I can do as well with the lives I touch.

GNOME News February Issue  
GNOME News February Issue  

This is the February Issue of GNOME News from the organization Great Natives Of Mid-western Ecotype.