Monday, July 29, 2013

The Good News of Midwest Native Plant Conference

This past weekend a large gathering of native plant enthusiasts gathered for a spirit-filled event at the Bergamo Marianist Retreat Center in Dayton, Ohio.  This was the fifth annual Midwest Native Plant Conference, where people gather for workshops, speakers, guided walks and a huge native plant sale.  It is about as much fun as a gardener in Ohio could ever want!
The Good News- native plants feed God's little critters.
Native plants are easier to to grow, well adapted to our soils and temperatures, and historically correct for Ohio.  But even more important, native plants feed native insects, the basic link of the food chain. If you like wildlife --from fuzzy little bunnies to black bears-- you know they have to eat!

Cheryl Harner hosts a show-and-tell with caterpillars.
One ginormous display, loads of feeding caterpillars, and
 native plants that host butterflies are all part of the program.
 It is not all preaching to the choir. I love speaking at these events, to help assure people that we are not fanatics.  You can keep your hosta and day lilies, and still provide companion native plants for habitat.  One topic of grave concern is our use and misuse of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.  What is the point of planting native plants if we kill all the insects (think butterflies and other pollinators)  that visit them?

A gentle rain didn't' stop the bird watchers.
 Educational walks are a big part of the weekend.  Jim McCormac led a morning bird walk and an evening insect song walk with Lisa Rainsong.  People love to learn more about nature in the beautiful surroundings at this retreat center.  A gentle rain couldn't stop this crowd.
Besides, we had plenty of umbrellas to share.

The gospel according to Doug Tallamy, could be a valuable tool for preserving species.
 The numerous speakers are excellent. David Brandenburg rocked the Graminoids, while John Howard took us on a photographic "Meander through Nature."  Jim McCormac taught photography and a class on the rare plants found at Cedar Bog.  These men are my mentors, some of the smartest fellers in Ohio, and just a few of the knowledgeable people who presented.

Our keynote speaker represents the University of Delaware. Doug Tallamy broke new ground in the native plant field with his book, Bringing Nature Home.  If you haven't read it, you will want to do so, right away! Tallamy has documented all that we "naturalist types" suspected; our native insects must have native plants, and the balance of our natural world is being upset by non-native plants.

The take home message from Tallamy's program was this: Biological corridors must do more than facilitate movement; they must support life!  Birds may eat multi-flora rose hips and honeysuckle berries, but they cannot raise their young on berries.  Birds must have insect larva to meet the protein requirements of their young.

Native plants are not just good-looking and hearty, they are vital to the existence of our wildlife!

Thanks to everyone who attended the conference and supports the native plant movement.  And a very special thanks to the organizers, speakers, leaders and volunteers.  It simply could not happen without you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your support Cheryl, and for helping us spread the message, we couldn't have done it without you all these yeas!