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Great Natives Of Mid-western Ecotype
March 1, 2009
GNOME N EWS THE BIG PICTURE
INSIDE THIS ISSUE: Plant Profile
Native on the Net
Planting with a Purpose
Riparian Buffer Study
Focus on the Future
Did you know... •
Placing objects or decals on windows greatly reduces the likelihood of birds colliding with them? That Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was published posthumously?
Anyone that has ever been outside at night with a light on has probably witnessed numerous insects (like moths) flying in endless circles. Scientists have been studying the effect of human-created light sources on wildlife and their findings are surprising. Light pollution can attract or repulse animals, resulting in increased predation, migrating in the wrong direction, choosing bad nest sites or mates, collisions with artificial structures and reduced time available to spend looking for food, just to name a few.
“Like a moth to a flame…” The effects are alarming. It is estimated that there are over 1 billion collisions between birds and windows every year. This is rapidly becoming a major factor in population declines. Many aquatic insects, like dragonflies, are falling into “ecological traps” and laying eggs on blacktop surfaces, which are similar in appearance to water surfaces. Baby sea turtles are
turning toward development instead of heading out to sea. The commonality in all of these situations is light pollution, particularly polarized (reflected) light. Light is an evolutionary navigation benchmark for many species. Many of these species are
the foundation of a food web that extends all the way up to us. "It's yet another case where we're faced with a choice between what's more expensive or what's better for biodiversity," says Bruce Robertson, an ecologist at Michigan State University. What choice do we have?
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 found the gnome last month. It was in the Native on the Net section. I t was the beginning letters of the first five sentences. Good luck this month!
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Liatris aspera– Rough Blazingstar We had several votes for the other choices this month. It was very difficult since all choices were in the liatris family. This month’s Name that Native plant was the Rough Blazingstar (Liatris aspera).
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
This perennial can grow from 25 feet tall. It is typically not branched and remains erect as is typical of the Liatris family. It is very drought tolerant. If left to its own, it can establish small colonies of mother/daughter plants.
Liatris family plants are insect magnets are prolific seeders.
Sometimes wading through search engine results can be a daunting task. Each month I will highlight a particularly good site related to native flora or fauna. You can also check out these links at our site! This month’s featured site is :
NatureServe Explorer http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/
Faunal associations of this plant include longtongued bees, butterflies, skippers, and bee flies visit the flowers. Butterfly visitors include Monarchs, Painted Ladies (pictured left), Black Swallowtails, Sulfurs, and others. The caterpillars of the rare Schinia florida (Glorious Flower Moth) feed on the flowers and
seed capsules of this and other Liatris spp. Mammmals, large and small, readily eat the foliage and stems, including rabbits, deer, groundhogs, and livestock. This plant can grow in all types of soil, but is usually found in rocky or poorer soil naturally. I have mine interspersed with native grasses for support. It likes full sun and mesic conditions. I have found this to be one of the main attractors of butterflies in my prairie garden. This has also had one of the greatest diversity of insects as well. You’ll love it!
NET An Online Encyclopedia of Life is the headline of this database created by the organization called NatureServe. This is one of THE BEST free online searchable databases I have come across. It is technical, but easy to use. It contains over 70,000 plant, animal, and ecosystem listings for Canada and the US.
You can search by common name or scientific name. Each entry uses drop down menus so you can view just what information you want to see. Entries typically include images, distribution maps, life histories, conservation status and more! You will want to bookmark this one!
BEST BOOKS– A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC This book written in 1949 by Aldo Leopold has a message that rings as true today as it did then. His blend of science, philosophy, and almost poetic language focuses on land ethics– and he makes it interesting (not an easy task in my opinion). The book itself is presented in twelve chapters– one for each month of the year. Through personal experiences, Leopold illustrates the importance of
various conservation topics from his “shack” in Sauk Co., Wisconsin.
nectedness of people and their environment through his eyes will open yours.
This book has the ability to recreate Leopold’s experiences for the reader. One can’t help but to be pulled into his world. See- A classic and keystone book of ing and feeling the conservation movement. the intercon-
Whether you have read this never or one hundred times, you are sure to find it inspirational time and again.
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O RG A N I Z AT I O N S P O T L I G H T : N AT U RE SE RVE “Providing the scientific basis for effective conservation, NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs are the trusted source for information about rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems.” http://www.natureserve.org/ This organization has three main goals: 1– Help make biodiversity a mainstream consideration in all applicable decisions by providing high-quality information. 2– Advance scientific resources and information technology systems to meet client and partner needs.
3- Strengthen organizational effectiveness and capacity to inform conservation action at local, regional, national, and international scales. This organization is truly comprehensive in scale. If you are looking for information about just about any conservation-related issue, this should be the first place you look. Their data is used by various government agencies like the USDA and USFS, scientific publications, as well as the EPA.
A Network Connecting Science With Conservation
While there is no membership, donations are welcomed. Most of their information services are free for the public. They are also featured in the Native on the Net section this month.
“GREENER” GOLF COURSES According to two recent studies at the University of Illinois, a naturalized landscape that incorporates native grasses benefits biodiversity, saves costs on pesticides and labor for the golf course, and could create a course which is just as challenging for golfers. Matthew Mechenes, graduate student in the Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences conducted the studies. He focused on the rough– the area on either side of the fairway. The native grasses used were blue grama and the Cody variety of buffalo grass.
The study used pure and mixed combinations of these grasses. His findings showed that these natives have more than adequate turf coverage while reaping the benefits that native plants provide. This study was largely funded by national and regional golf course superintendent associations.
“Gardens are a form of autobiography.”
CUT A CORNER One way to reduce the amount of lawn space that you need to maintain by mowing, fertilizing, and watering is by cutting a corner. Using this method will not create something extra to mow around (thus more time usually) and can create the opportunity to enhance your property. In the December issue of GNOME News, I featured the Newspaper Backsaver tip on bed preparation. Corners are
great places to try this out. Last fall I did just this in a corner using silphium, helianthus, and tall grasses. Choose one corner of your lawn (your least favorite, the least healthy, or the one you see most often) to cut off. Use the newspaper/mulch method. One thing to
consider when making plant selections is the microclimate that exists in your corner. I chose taller plants that can handle both moist and dry periods since it is near a storm drain and I wanted to slow run off. This is one time cutting corners is good!
This corner, smothered with newspaper and mulch, has been plated with prairie seedlings.
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N A T I V E G R A S S E S I N R I PA R I A N S T R I P S SHOWN TO BREAK DOWN ATRAZINE
“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. ~Marshall McLuhan
Riparian buffers are areas along watersheds, often stream banks, that are planted with nonagricultural plants to reduce erosion and improve water quality. This is particularly useful in the Midwest where runoff from farm fields into major water courses carry an estimated 970 million tons of topsoil to the Gulf of Mexico each year. To put that into perspective, that would amount to over 10.5 million freight train cars of soil per year.
one of the most controversial “crop protectors” on the market.
Given this monumental problem, solutions to help alleviate any of the contributing factors should be welcomed with open arms. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have begun to study the effect of different grass species on herbicide transport and degradation in field and growth chamber studies.
The implications to the Midwestern farming communities could be huge. Now buffers might be able to do even more to reduce harmful effects of row crop agriculture. But this can apply to smaller scale areas as well. Consider using native grasses in areas of your yard where surface runoff carries valuable nutrients and chemicals away to streams and storm drains. After all, it’s everyone’s water.
Recent studies indicate that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor. This is particularly harmful in amphibians as it affects their reproductive hormones and organs.
In the study conducted at ARS Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit in Columbia, Mo., Erosion is a big scientist Bob issue, but so are Lerch and his all of the agriculcolleagues found tural chemicals that of all of the that flow along Atrazine use in the US measured in pounds per square mile. grasses tested, with this soil. the native eastThe “dead zone” ern gammagrass created by hyshowed the highest capacity for promoting poxic conditions (largely due to agricultural nitroatrazine degradation. More than 90 percent of gen) in the Gulf of Mexico is predicted to be about applied atrazine was degraded to less-toxic 8,800 square miles in 2009. That is approxiforms, compared to 24 percent in the control. mately the size of New Jersey.
The grasses studied were orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, Illinois bundle flower, ryegrass, switchgrass, and eastern gammagrass. Orchardgrass smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, and ryegrass are all non-natives. Illinois bundle flower, switchgrass, and eastern gammagrass are US natives. All are well adapted to buffer zone plantings. Degradation of the broadleaf herbicide atrazine was the focus of the study. Atrazine has become the most widely used herbicide in the United States. It is the top-selling product for Syngenta, the largest chemical corporation in the world. Atrazine has become the most frequently detected contaminant of ground, surface, and drinking water in the Midwestern United States (U.S.), and is
Riparian buffers along stream banks serve a dual purpose– erosion control and chemical processing
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I N VA S I V E S J A PA N E S E B A R B E R R Y Berberis thunbergii commonly known as Japanese Barberry is a major threat for several reasons. First, its seeds are very appetizing to birds, which disperse its them widely. Secondly, the large number of seeds produced by each plant typically have a very high germination rate– up to 90% by some estimates. Thirdly, it is one invasive that has many different cultivars and is still readily available through the nursery trade and home improvement centers. The plant itself has been recommended for hedgerows and “living fence” since the early 1900s. It usually grows to about 2-3 feet, though can
get up to 7 or 8 feet. It is a dense plant that is also thorny. It spreads from seeds as well as creeping roots. Branches will also root when soil contact is made. It will often form dense stands creating barriers for people and wildlife. One of the reasons that this plant is so invasive comes back to why it is so popular as an ornamental. It is compact and will thrive even in dense shade. It is not particularly picky about soil and will change pH levels to suit its needs.
Japanese Barberry Invasive Distribution
F A N TA S T I C F A U N A : T H E
Native alternatives to this plant include ninebark, ink-berry, arrowwood viburnum, and winterberry.
Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) are medium sized hawks and bird hunting specialists. As is typical of other accipiters, it is not a glider, but hunts by speed and stealth.
I am fortunate enough to have a cooper’s hawk that frequents our yard in search of birds at our feeder. To me, this makes every penny I spend on seed worth it. To watch this bird specialist in action is amazing. I have seen how it varied its approach pattern until it finally found one was effective. I One of the most amazing features of this bird in have seen how it has changed perch sites in order my opinion is its determination and the tenacity to best use cover. I have seen quick dashes that that it exhibits while pursuing its prey. In a remade me cringe as it flew full tilt into the center of cent study, 23% of all wild cooper’s hawks exam- a spruce emerging with a house finch in foot. I ined had healed fractures– mainly in their chest have witnessed collisions with sliding patio doors areas– that were likely caused by collisions with and pursuit to a neighbor’s front door. I never tire objects (think branches) while going after prey. of seeing this predator in action. After witnessing their hunts firsthand, I believe it! It is similar in appearance to the smaller Sharpshinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus). One feature to look for is tail length and shape. Cooper’s Hawks have a longer tail and it is rounded. Sharp-shinned Hawks have a shorter tail proportionally and it is square. This bird can be found throughout North America. They will migrate, but permanent residents are not uncommon if prey is plentiful and cover is available. Watch for this wonderful and high energy raptor! “Cooper” sitting on our neighbor’s fence looking for a quick meal at our feeder.
“Human nature is about the only nature some people experience.”
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.
Great Natives Of Mid-western Ecotype Primary Business Address 1753 Wick Way Montgomery, IL 60538
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Focus Cartoon p.6-http://www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au/cartoons/sport/ img6.jpg
Barberry Compilation p.5- http://classes.hortla.wsu.edu/hort231/List07/ Slide1.jpg
Cut a corner p.3- http://www.lesslawn.com/articles/article1023.html
Riparian buffers- http://www.sciencedaily.com/ releases/2009/01/090131123819.htm
Invasives Map p.5- http://threatsummary.forestthreats.org/images/maps/ Japanese_barberry_Map_76.png
Native News p.3- http://www.sciencedaily.com/ releases/2008/06/080612105313.ht
Riparian buffer p.4- http://www.ieaconline.org/
Plant profile p.2- http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/ rgh_blazingstarx.htm
Atrazine Map p.4-http://www.eoearth.org/article/ Atrazine_in_the_environment
Cut a Corner p.3- http://www.lesslawn.com/articles/article1023.html
Cover- http://www.sciencedaily.com/ releases/2009/01/090107092714.htm Cover Photo- http://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2005/06/01/moth-in-theyellow-light/
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“Experience the world from the comfort of your couch!” touts a national cable company advertisement. As part of their deal to assist you in this venture, they are willing to give you internet, cable, and phone service for less than $90 a month! You may never need to get up again! There is no doubt that there is more information available today to the average person than ever before. With this blessing also hides a curse. We are quickly becoming a nation of armchair “experts”. I have to admit that I am guilty of this as well. Perhaps that is why I have been looking at my knowledge and experiences to assess how they are compatible.
I believe that I am not the exception, but rather the epitome of this disparity between experience and knowledge. So– what does that mean?
“What?! Not another bronze...”
According to my experience census, I have way more knowledge than my experiences would provide. For example, I know when prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) blooms, what it looks like, where it grows, and what plants associate in the same habitat. But have I ever seen it bloom? No– not at my home (hopefully this year) nor in the wild.
For me, it means I need to get off my butt and get some experience. The definition of experience is according to Merriam-Webster (1a) “direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge. Do I really have the knowledge if I have not really experienced it? Yes. But what level of joy, interest, or satisfaction might you get by enhancing that knowledge with experience? I aim to find out. I would encourage you to take your own experience-to-knowledge census for whatever area(s) of your life you want to enjoy a little more. Maybe more experience will bring a new appreciation for what you love.