Some Sources of Native Plants in 2021

Pat Sutton’s Wildlife Garden: Swamp Milkweed in seed (on left), Smooth Blue Aster (in center), Cut-leaf Coneflower (on right)

Once hooked on wildlife gardening with native plants, it can be a real challenge to find native plants.  Yes a few have been mainstreamed, and the nursery down the street may carry them.  But beware of cultivars of native plants.  Cultivars are plants created or selected for specific characteristics such as early blooming or color, often at the expense of nectar, berries (the plants may be sterile), and sometimes even the leaf chemistry is changed so the plant can no longer be used as a caterpillar plant.  We (wildlife gardeners) want the nectar, the berries, and we want the leaf chemistry intact so our butterflies can create the next generation!

Be careful too that your plants are Neonicotinoid free.  Neonicotinoids are systemic (get into every part of the plant, including pollen, nectar, even dew) pesticides that are applied to many commercially-available nursery plants and are harmful to bees, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies.

Around the world steps are being taken to protect pollinators from neonics. In 2018, the European Union voted to completely ban all outdoor uses of three types of neonics (citing their impacts to honey bees). Canada followed suit, planning to phase out all outdoor use of three specific neonics in 3-5 years (2021-2023) because of impacts to aquatic ecosystems. In 2016 Connecticut became the first state in the nation to restrict the use of neonicotinoids when the legislature unanimously passed An Act Concerning Pollinator Health (banning sales of neonics for use by general consumers in backyard garden settings). Soon after, Maryland passed a similar bill that restricts the sale of neonics and bans their use by consumers.

Educate yourself about Neonics by reading the following:

  1. Xerces Society’s  Protecting Bees From Neonicotinoids in Your Garden (includes list of products that have neonics in them)
  2. Xerces Society’s How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, the Science Behind the Role These Insecticides Play in Harming Bees (in-depth study, 2nd Edition)
  3. Xerces Society’s “Neonicotinoid Movement in the Environment” POSTER (how neonics move through the landscape and are being found even where they were not used)
  4. American Bird Conservancy’s  Neonicotinoid Insecticides Harm The Little Creatures, including how 90 percent of food samples taken from Congressional cafeterias contain neonicotinoid insecticides (highly toxic to birds and other wildlife) .
  5. NJ Audubon’s “Neonicotinoid Fact Sheet – Neonicotinoids, Pesticides Placing New Jersey’s Wildlife, Farms, and Families at Risk
  6. NJ Audubon’s “Impacts of Neonicotinoids on Non-Target Species and Ecosystems

HUGE IINSECT DIE-OFF / INSECT APOCALYPSE

  1. A car “splatometer” study finds huge insect die-off
    Nov. 13, 2019, by Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor, The Guardian
    Measuring how many bugs fly into car windshields might sound silly. But to scientists predicting an “insect apocalypse,” the numbers are deadly serious.
  2. Insect apocalypse’ poses risk to all life on Earth, conservationists warn        Feb. 12, 2020, by Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor, The Guardian

BIRDS ARE VANISHING

  1. “Birds are Vanishing from North America”
    The number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 2.9 billion, or 29 percent, over the past 50 years (1970-2019), scientists find (Science, 2019).
  2. “A Neonicotinoid Insecticide Reduces Fueling and Delays Migration in Songbirds,” by Margaret Eng, Bridget Stutchbury, Christy Morrissey.  Science, 13 September 2019, Vol. 365, Issue 6458, pp. 1177-1180.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Here are just a few of the things that each and every one of us can do:

  1. Plant NATIVES, especially Keystone Species (read Doug Tallamy’s books to understand what Keystone Species are).
  2. Ask nurseries you frequent if their native plants have been treated with Neonicotinoids. If they don’t know, ask them to find out. If the answer is yes, don’t purchase and explain why, that Neonics are hazardous to the wildlife you are trying to attract and benefit.
  3. Leave fallen leaves on the ground: they are full of insect life, they protect tree and shrub and perennial roots, they break down and naturally nourish your soil, and they prevent erosion.
  4. DO NOT USE Pesticides (including Organic – they KILL too) or Herbicides or synthetic Fertilizers.
  5. Turn outdoor lights OFF at night (use motion sensor lights instead).
  6. Remove as many invasive plants as possible on your property
  7. Share some of your native “Chocolate Cake” perennial divisions (that are also Keystone Species: Asters and Goldenrods, for example) with others to help get them hooked
  8. Read and give Doug Tallamy’s books (Bringing Nature Home, Nature’s Best Hope, and The Nature of Oaks ) to family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors.
  9. If you ever have a chance to hear Doug Tallamy speak, BE THERE and bring your neighbor, friend, family member, landscaper, lawn care service worker so they can learn to speak the same language. In the meantime Google “YouTube videos (or podcasts) Doug Tallamy” and you’ll have dozens to choose from, many of which are keynote talks he’s given about the importance of insects, native plants, and much more. Watch them and they may change your life and/or the way you view life. Share them with neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers.
  10. Read and give Heather Holm’s books (Pollinators of Native Plants; Bees, An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide; and Wasps, Their Biology, Diversity, and Role as Beneficial Insects and Pollinators of Native Plants) to family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to help you (and others) understand beneficial pollinators and provide for their nesting needs by leaving stem stubble during spring garden clean up, standing dead trees, utilizing fallen branches and tree trunks to line garden or woodland paths, and avoiding too much hardscaping, mulching, and turf so that ground-nesting pollinators have places to nest.
  11. Share all this with your neighbors, friends, co-workers, family

Some Sources of NATIVE PLANTS: 2021
by Patricia Sutton
click here for the 5-page printable pdf

2nd Edition (4-25-21)

To help people find the top ranked plants in their county Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, is working with National Wildlife Federation on their Native Plant Finder website.  In browsing this site, there are many, many plants for my own area (Cape May County, NJ) that I have been promoting for years and know to be TOP ranked plants that are not yet included . . . so keep checking back and realize that this is a work in progress.

The Jersey-Friendly Yards Website has many helpful resources. Use their searchable plant database to help you select plants for your site. The database has many filters including a “native plants only” filter showcasing @ 300 natives, as well as filters for wildlife value, region, ecoregion (including barrier island/coastal, Pinelands), deer resistant, light requirement, soil type, soil moisture, drought tolerance, salt tolerance, bloom color, bloom time, plant type, and more.   The site also includes a list of nurseries that sell natives county-by-county.

The Meadow Project (“Urban and Suburban Meadows” and “Hometown Habitat” by Catherine Zimmerman) shares an excellent state-by-state “Find Native Plants” link, with many additional sources of native plants.

Be sure to also check with your state’s Native Plant Society to see if they have a list of nurseries that carry native plants.  The Native Plant Society of NJ’s Native Plant Nurseries list includes the percentage of natives that each nursery carries, so you can readily see which nurseries you can let your guard down in and which you need to pay sharp attention.

 

9 Replies to “Some Sources of Native Plants in 2021”

  1. Our minds are now completely blown. I put all of the freebie plants the homeowners gave us on Friday’s tour in one area of our lawn while awaiting to plant them. A beautiful orange butterfly swept into our barren lawn, bypassed every mature bush and plant and went directly to the baby milkweeds. We were astounded. I spent the afternoon removing a mature burning bush, that had not a sign of insect life on it, nor any leave eaten and made a home for our new plants.

    We will write each homeowner and thank them, but thanks to you Pat for making a difference and making the time to help educate us and expose us to an entirely different world of gardening.

    Kevin & Kathe Stepanuk

    1. Kevin & Kathe, so glad you could join us for Friday’s Tour of Private Wildlife Gardens. And HOW VERY NEAT that a butterfly found your new baby milkweed gift plants from one of the garden owners. WOW – what a stamp of approval! Thank you so much for sharing. Too, too sweet! I look forward to seeing you again. Pat

  2. I am in Missouri. When I look at plants not from my usual source, I write down the brand name, then come home and research that brand. What an education! A lot of what is sold around here is Proven Winners. My search gave me a direct hit for PW and neonicotinoids, “Protecting Pollinators in the Garden.” https://www.provenwinners.com/Bees. This was from April 2014 and the policy may have changed. There was an impressive header from Michigan State University. I was thinking, Great! But then I continued reading. “At this time insecticide use is NOT considered to be a direct cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.” I might have put “DIRECT” in caps, too, but that’s just me. Anyway, I’ve learned that plants are often started by one grower and “finished” by another so you have to do thorough research.
    I understand that now some of the big box stores are labeling whether neonics were used or not.

  3. Someone called me from a Linwood Arboretum listing to ask about landscapers who know how to replace lawn with natives. Do you know of any in the area?

  4. What kind of natural fertilizer do you recommend for:
    1. potted blooming of flowering blooming plants
    2. Annuals and perennials bedding flowering plants.

    I have been following you for years, attended your lectures, and met you in person a few times. I spent my summers in CM at the family home until my parents passed away. I have followed your gardening practices for years in the Baltimore MD area.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Leigh, I do not fertilize my garden or potted plants with commercial fertilizer or any fertilizer. In my perennial garden, though, I mulch with Salt Hay, which breaks down over time into rich soil. Lots of leaves blow into my gardens too and these too break down into soil. That said, parts of my garden are drying out pretty quickly (with last year’s heat and lack of rain, followed by this year’s heat and lack of rain . . . until Tropical Storm Fay) and the soil needs some help. So, this winter I am going to put a layer of Mushroom Soil on those parts of my garden.

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