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Great Natives of Midwestern Ecotype

June 2009 Edition

Great Natives Of Mid-western Ecotype

V o l u m e 9 , I ss u e 1 June 1, 2009



National Ash Tree Seed Collection Initiative Plant Profile


Native on the Net


Best Books


Organization Spotlight


Native News


Planting with a Purpose


Deterring Dear




Fantastic Fauna


Focus on the Future


Did you know...

The emerald ash borer has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the Midwest since 2002?

Next month we will feature an exclusive interview with the Executive Director of Wild Ones?

Sometimes history repeats itself. In 2002, the emerald ash borer was discovered in Michigan and has been extending its radius of damage ever since. Reminiscent of the spread of Dutch Elm disease, the destruction of native ash trees is possible on the same scale. But lessons have been learned from the past experiences. Rose Lake Plant Materials Center (PMC) is taking steps to make sure that ash trees, in the event that the emerald ash borer cannot be contained, will not go the way of the elms from decades ago. The National Ash Tree Seed Collection Initiative has been started by the PMC. This program is on the national scale and volunteers are needed. You can view or print the collection form from their site. The goal is to create a seed back that will serve as a genetic base for work to reestablish ash trees in the event of total decimation.

The program is set up to take in seeds from all sources and states. These seeds, once identified and entered in to the database (location, collection time, species, etc), are then sent to the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Here the seeds will be x-rayed by the US Forest Service to determine sound seed for storage. Upon being approved, ash seed will be stored for future generations to use. More information can be found at

GNOME’S MISSION 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 mem-

bers can share their passion, plans, ideas, and questions with other people having a common interest.

1. Join our facebook group at

You can participate in many different ways.

3. Visit or link to the website 4. Pass on the newsletter. group.php? gid=45643568296


Submit articles, pictures, stories, or plans for publication.

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Ceanothus americanus– New Jersey Tea I thought this might be a hard one to identify in Name that Native, but it got 100% of the votes. The plant last month was none other than Ceanothus americanus– commonly called New Jersey Tea.

“In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.” ~Abram L. Urban

This small woody shrub will grow only to about 3 feet tall. It has large and deeply veined leaves that are slightly hairy on the underside. Blooms are white and airy and emerge during mid-summer. The flowers are scented and pleasant. Preference is for full to partial sun.

An underutilized landscape plant, New Jersey Tea will attract all types of wildlife!



Sometimes wading through sites looking for good resources on native plants is just too time consuming. This section should help! This month’s featured site is :

Native Alternatives to Invasives plants/handbooks/ nativealternatives/ nativealternatives_weblist.html

Faunal associations include many insects like bees, wasps, flies, and beetles. Butterflies and moths will also utilize this plant– including skippers and azures. Humming birds will visit the flowers to catch small insects to feed to their young. The leaves are also very palatable to mammals of all sorts.

As the common name implies, this plant was an American substitute for English tea during the Revolutionary War. Though it contains no caffeine, it has a fair taste and color similar to many oriental teas. Once established, this plant will be very drought resistant. Initially browsing mammals may make this difficult. It is a plant that can spread, usually by seed. Seeds are “ejected” several feet from the parent plant (I think that is cool– similar to wild petunia). I use mine with lead plant for a nice accent near my patio.

NET This is a section of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden site. Author C. Colston Burrell partnered with the BBG to write an all region guide of native alternatives to common exotic plants. This site highlights some of the most common landscaping plants and offers native alternatives.

The recommended natives were matched according to the desirable characteristics if the invasive one they are meant to replace. Things such as flowers, fruit, foliage color, and growing conditions were are taken into account. For a more complete listing, check out the Best Book section below!



The goal of the collaborative book between the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and author C. Colston Burrell is twofold1.

Make people aware of invasive plants in the home landscape. 2. Provide native alternatives to eliminate those invasive plants. The book is called Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants.

There are over 100 invasive perennials, vines, shrubs, and grasses listed in the book. While this book doesn’t go into great detail regarding the invasive plants or their history, it is very comprehensive in the recommendations of natives to replace them.

This is an inexpensive, easy to use guide that gives you a great resource for the money.

You might be surprised at how many common landscaping plants are invasive! With planting season in full swing, this book is a handy reference to have on hand!

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O RG A N I Z AT I O N S P O T L I G H T : GREEN AMERICA “New name, same mission” is the slogan for Green America– formerly Co-op America. “Our mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace— to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” Empowering people to take both personal and collective action, this organization focuses on the relationship between issues of social justice and environmental ones.

Green America is not just an organization that points out issues. It finds and enacts solutions to these issues. Their mission is to also “work for a world where all people have enough, where all communities are healthy and safe, and where the bounty of the Earth is preserved for all

Changing the world one gift at a time

the generations to come.” The website provides invaluable resources for finding businesses, products and information related to their mission.

Many of their “Take Action” highlights have an easy Yes-I want to help! Button, making it easy to get involved. Membership starts at $20 and this also gives you valuable benefits.


CORRIDORS SPREAD BENEFICIAL PLANTS A study recently conducted by a North Carolina State University biologist Dr. Nick Haddad and colleagues shows an unexpected “spillover” effect of beneficial plants in connected landscape corridors. By connecting small patches of isolated habitat with landscape corridors, many of the protected species expand their ranges


outside of the protected area, which Dr. Haddad called “spillover”. "Most conserved areas are small – two-thirds are less than one square kilometer – so the spillover effect with corridors gives a larger conservation bang for the buck," says Haddad.


He also noted that invasive and exotic species did not show the same effect. It is believed that birds use the corridors and assist in the seed spreading. This conservation strategy has also worked in the fishing industry providing a mutual benefit both fish and fisherman.


E L EVA T E D DR A I NA G E Ever wish you had better drainage for some of those dry-loving plants like prairie smoke or pasque flower, but your yard just doesn’t provide a suitable spot? Try this method to give you the extra drainage that you need! After killing several plants by planting them in average/dry soil, I realized that I needed more drainage. I created an accent by using large rocks and

filling the space between them with dirt. I think of it as a sort of land bridge.

to regular ground level and thus keep roots drier. This has expanded the types of plants I am able to have in beds.

I selected an area for a new bed and placed large rocks in a crescent shape with the curves opposite-think hourglass from above. Like this )( Fill between with regular soil, or even add sand/soil mix if the dirt is heavy. This extra elevation will all water to flow down

Creating a raised area between rocks will allow for extra drainage and create niches for plants on either side.

“Human beings, like plants, grow in the soil of acceptance, not in the atmosphere of rejection .” ~John Powell

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DETERRING DEERS T UDY IN DA MA GE CO N T RO L It is hard to believe that the white-tailed deer was once almost extirpated from many Midwestern states. These mammals, along with most of the other large mammals including elk, bison, cougars, and wolves were removed as land was cultivated and human populations grew. While few of these large animals have staged significant comebacks in the Midwest, deer populations are estimated to be higher than presettlement numbers in most states.

While damage varied, solutions to the damage did emerge. Plants harvested in the fall sustained far less browsing than those left until late winter. So– what other things can be done to deter the voracious herbivores– especially in the home landscape? The most effective

“Nature always tends to act in the simplest way.” ~Bernoulli

thing to do is to One reason for this phefence the area nomenon is that human that you are trying habitation provides for the to protect. Fencdeer perfectly. Few large ing should typipredators have access to cally be 7.5 feet or them in suburbia taller to keep deer (including hunters), high A familiar site in much of the mid-west– from jumping over quality landscape plants deer browse damage to arborvitae trees. it. ensure good nutrition, and this available food supply allow for high young survival rates. Where fencing isn’t practical, there are deterrents. Home remedies that work to varying degrees are human hair, soap, mothballs, and blood With very high populations of deer in many areas, meal fertilizer. The most effective application of conflict is inevitable. High deer/car accident numthese is to use more than one and rotate their bers and damage to property are two common use. Most of these will need to be re-applied types of conflict. But a recent study done at the after rain. University of Nebraska Agricultural Research and Development Center focused on the impact that white-tailed deer are having on the nontimber Commercial products are available. Deer Off forest products (NTFP) industry. (below) works for deer and rabbits, but is more costly than the home remedies. The NTFP industry is growing steadily. Examples of nontimber forest products include edibles such Landscaping with plants that deer dislike is also as fruits and nuts, medicinal and herbal products, effective. Some of these are plants include and specialty floral and decorative items. The plants in the mint family like hyssops or bee NTFP industry is a multiple billion dollar business balms. Others like penstemons and milkweeds in the US economy annually. are just a few deer avoid. The study focused on 26 types of trees and shrubs to evaluate economic impacts on various nontimber products. These were all considered commercially valuable were grown in a 40 acre complex with a deer population density of 48 deer per square mile. The findings of the study showed that some plants, such as pussy willow, didn’t sustain much damage– only a loss of about $26/per acre. While that is the low end (1% damaged product), the high end was much different. Plants such as “Blood twig” dogwood sustained 21% damaged product and a loss of $2031/per acre.

Deer Off is one commercial product available to deter deer.

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I N VA S I V E S GIANT HOGWEED Heracleum mantegazzianu is an expanding invasive beginning to spread throughout the Midwest. It is commonly called Giant Hogweed. I saw my first giant hogweed along the Apple River in northern Illinois at the end of May. It is truly a nasty plant!

The plant is highly toxic. The sap contains furocoumarins, which actually change your skin to be sensitive to light. It can cause anything from red dots on skin to severe burns requiring hospitalization. Your skin remains light sensitive for up to three years after contact.

It is a Eurasian plant which came to America as an ornamental in the early 1900s. Each plant is capable of producing 50,000 seeds, which stay viable for up to 7 years. This makes eradication a lengthy process.

It is recommended that you call state officials to establish an eradication plan. Mowing spreads the plant and cutting is not advised do to potential toxicity.

Giant Hogweed Distribution Green= Present

It can be mistaken for cow parsnip, Angelica, and poison hemlock.

F A N TA S T I C F A U N A : T H E G A R T E R S N A K E Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. Many people, even if not afraid of snakes, display a strong dislike for them, especially when “surprised” by them in yards or gardens. Let’s take a closer look at a commonly encountered and harmless snakeThamnophis sirtalis or the common garter snake.

chemical defenses. Due to the food habits of these snakes, one should welcome them into their yards and gardens.

There are other interesting facts about these snakes. One of these is that they give birth to live young. This occurs in July-October months. These snakes usually try to avoid contact with larger This snake is one of the most widely distributed animals and will flee if given the chance. If picked snakes in North America. It is lively, adaptable, up or cornered however, the can emit a foul smelland can survive extreme environmental condiing secretion to deter would be predators. They tions. are important links in the food chain. Many larger animals will eat these common snakes. Easily recognized by the typical dorsal stripe, usu- These snakes are a protected species in many ally accompanied by stripes on either side, this areas. non-venomous snake usually lives in moist grassy environments with some cover, such as leaf litter, boards, or rocks. This makes finding them in suburban yards a likely prospect. Garter snakes are what are considered low-level predators. These snakes consume small animals – both aquatic and terrestrial. Prey items include earthworms, slugs, snails, and are one of the few predators of amphibians, which usually have The common garter snake

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature; he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~John Muir

Great Natives Of Mid-western Ecotype Primary Business Address 1753 Wick Way Montgomery, IL 60538


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.

Check out our site!!!

We’re on the Web! There’s no place like GNOME!



Big Picture Photo- Deer p.4- DeerDamage-340x235.jpg Deer p.4- Deer p.4- Additional%20Product%20Pictures/DeerOffII(Gray).jpg Invasives Map p.5- maps/Giant_Hogweed_Map_37.png Giant Hogweed p.5- invasivetutorial/images/giant_hogweed.jpg Fantastic Fauna p.5- resources/h_c_kyllingstad/snakeMNGarvinPk3a.jpg/view.html

References Pictures

Native News p.3- releases/2009/05/090520151441.htm Deer- releases/2009/05/090504094458.htm Invasives- Fantastic Fauna p.5- accounts/information/Thamnophis_sirtalis.html


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This is our primary forum location. The newsletter as well as open discussions are there and also other links to people and groups that focus on natives.

Got an article? Now accepting member submitted news and photos! Once you have something to share, send it to the email listed at left. Monthly news articles will, of course, give credit to the contributor. Everyone welcome!




I was pleasantly surprised while visiting with my grandmother on Mother’s Day. My Grandma Akers is now 98 and still living by herself on the family farm near Troy Mills, IA. This surprise was due to a picture that I was sharing. I had taken some pictures of shooting star Shooting star bridges past and future that was finally in bloom after three years. Grandma said “That’s shooting Would a child, given a similar star!” and went on tell me that setting today, be able to even when she was a child, she used to see a native plant like shooting pass a large patch of those flowers star? Would it matter? in the spring near some woods when walking to her grandparent’s There was a discussion on an house. online forum recently about whether or not it is worth it to Our conversation went on to plant natives– whether it Memorial Day and old pioneer makes an impact at various cemeteries and other prairie plants levels (local, regional, national, now only found in those locations. global). Some people felt that That made me wonder about what a single yard or even a plant in kind of impressions current gena yard is too small to make an erations are left with. impact.

I disagree. Think of the impact of the shooting star on my grandmother so many years ago. It wasn’t just the plants. The plants were one component of her memory of spring, her home, and her family. Shooting star served as a catalyst for our conversation as well as her memories. Family heritage is important, as is our natural history. I offer this example to those that think that little impact is made by small changes. Natives in your landscape add diversity to an ecosystem that has functioned there for thousands of years. The interrelationship between native plants and animals is so complex that even science cannot connect all of the dots. But in addition to that, native plants connect other things. They connect us with the past– and that will make the memories that live to the future.

GNOME News June 2009  

Here is the monthy newsletter for Great Natives of Midwestern Ecotype (GNOME).