The Wild Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis

Wild Columbine is a native flower of Pennslyvania and grows in a variety of soil and light conditions that range from woodland edges to riverbanks, and gravelly shores and ridges. Columbine is a beautiful, native wildflower which blooms in the spring (April to July). Its drooping flowers are red and yellow, 1 to 2 inches long. Its pollen attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Growing to a height of 1-2 feet’, columbine does best in partial shade to filtered sun. As the tiny black seeds ripen, they can be collected by hand over several days from August to October by gently tapping the follicle (old flower) into a container.

Picture © Thomas G. Barnes University of Tennessee Herbarium.


The Future of Open Space

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend The Future of Open Space in Chester County forum in West Chester, PA, yesterday but was pleased to see this article today by Dan Kristie in the Daily Local News. If you were in attendance, we would love to hear your feedback.
WEST CHESTER — The Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Chester County has done an excellent job preserving open space and its land-preservation method should be a model to all other counties in the commonwealth.
But now is not the time to sit back and enjoy the view, said Michael DiBerardinis. Rather, he said, the land preservation battle will be lost if those interested in saving open space don't develop new strategies.
"If we stay with our traditional tools, it won't be enough," he said. "The world of conservation is changing before us."
Standing before a crowd of more than 100 at a Saturday afternoon seminar on the future of Chester County's open space, DiBerardinis said that activists should begin to emphasize what connects open space preservation to the economy and the social life of a community.
"We need to struggle for those alignments," he said. "That's the future." For example, he said, activists should point to the presence of trees on an urban street that raise the value of properties on that street and that properties in areas that have healthy streams and parks are worth more than properties in areas without these features.
And he said activists should focus on conveying the message that there is money to be made from selling locally grown food and fitting buildings with features that will make them LEED certified. He also said woodsy walking paths can actually have a democratizing effect — anyone can use a free walking path, and while they are on it, their socioeconomic status melts away as they become simply another traveler.
On the less theoretical end, he said open-space preservationists have to find better ways to deploy easements, the legal agreements that restrict uses allowed on particular plots of land regardless of the land's zoning. Many places in Chester County should be preserved through easements, he said.
He said open-space activists must be deeply involved in combating global warming, a phenomenon that he said has already affected vegetation and weather patterns in the state forests that his agency oversees. DiBrardinis delivered the keynote address at the The Future of Open Space in Chester County seminar at the Chester County Historical Society headquarters. The seminar's purpose was to promote a new open space exhibit at the headquarters.
The forum was sponsored by the Daily Local News and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and was planned through a collaboration of the historical society, the Natural Lands Trust, the Children's Country Week Association and West Chester University.
DiBerardinis was a particularly appropriate speaker because he grew up in Downingtown during the 1950s when the area was far more rural than it is today. He said his childhood experiences playing in the woods inspired him to pursue a career in natural resources and the environment. He recalled playing in Downingtown's streams and fields as a child, and he told the crowd that his mother, after hanging the laundry in the morning, often had to chase an apparel-obsessed cow from the neighboring dairy pasture away from her clotheslines.
The event also featured a panel discussion led by Daily Local News reporter Anne Pickering. It featured Pamela Brown, conservation director of the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust; Joe Duckworth, president of Arcadia Land Co.; William Gladden of the Chester County Planning Commission; Robert Lonsdorf, senior planner at the Brandywine Conservancy; and Molly Morrison, president and CEO of the Natural Lands Trust.


Recommended Book List

You will find a link to the list of recommended books under the Worthy Links section on the right, and as we edit the list, we will add the date in parenthesis. Continue to send us your list of favorite nature books to share with our members!


Experts fret over loss of biodiversity

In case you missed it, the Daily Local News published the wonderful article below on Friday, February 13, written by Anne Pickering. Thank you to Daily Local News and Anne for allowing us to share this with you.

MEDIA — Across suburban landscapes a new movement is growing, one possibly as revolutionary as the first cry to save open space that went up at the end of the last century when land planners recognized the danger of urban sprawl.

Across the country and particularly in heavily suburban landscapes like Chester County, a new danger has been identified: It is the loss of biodiversity, the huge variety of animal life that is disappearing from the planet."If you walk down the street and ask somebody what is the major problem of the world, they will not say an extinction crisis," said Douglas Tallamy, professor and chairman of the entomology and wildlife ecology department at the University of Delaware, who addresseda crowd of 150 people at Penn State's Brandywine campus Sunday.

"It's not on their horizon. People don't believe it. They think nature is happy someplace else. It doesn't matter what we do to our local plants, there is always a bit of nature someplace else," Tallamy said.But increasingly that bit of nature someplace else is in as big a trouble as the nature closer to home.

Tallamy, the featured speaker at a lecture hosted by the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watershed Association and the Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania, is at the forefront of the movement to save local biodiversity. He urges residents to turn their backyards into wildlife sanctuaries chiefly through the vehicle of planting native species.

Research conducted by Tallamy and others reveal the close link between insects and plants they eat, he said. Because the two evolved together, to increase the number of birds, you have to give them something to eat and somewhere to live — both functions of native plant life.The problem is the proliferation of ornamental plants from Asia, Europe and even the Pacific Northwest. "Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants," Tallamy says in his book, "Bringing Nature Home."

"And we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends."But the good news is the trend can be reversed and is relatively easy to do by replacing alien plants with native plants.There are organizations available to help homeowners and municipalities such as Habitat Resource Network that train people to be habitat stewards.

Tallamy urged homeowner associations to plant native species on open-space land, in stormwater swales and around ponds that serve as detention basins. He advocated for planting native trees such as an oak tree that 517 different species of caterpillars can eat. The caterpillars will attract birds and other insect-loving species. He recommended that the size of lawns be reduced and allow areas to revert to meadow.

The ideas were interesting to Terry Woodman, East Whiteland township manager, who attended the event. Part of the township is in the Chester-Ridley-Crum watershed.The township mandates landscaping in connection with new land development projects.Woodman said she would look at the list of tree species that the township recommends to see if they are native species. Letting lawns revert back to a meadow is a concept that is a little problematic in East Whiteland because most lots are only a half-acre. Residents worry about what effect a house that doesn't mow its lawn would have on property values, she said."I can see it working in a township such as Willistown with much larger lot sizes," said Woodman.

To contact staff writer Anne Pickering,
send an e-mail to apickering@dailylocal.com.


What is on Your Nightstand?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have attended a few different events where I listened to different individuals sharing details about the books they are currently reading. After speaking with numerous people, I leave the functions unable to remember the names of the books that were so highly praised. This leads me to my request.
I would love to compile a resource list of recommended books which we will store and share right here on our blog!! Please take a few minutes to consider which books you have read that you feel would be a great nature read (non-fiction or even fiction pertaining to nature) or even a wonderful reference book.
You may either post within the comments or send me an email at blog@habitatresourcenetwork.org. Please include the title/s, author/s, and whether the book is fiction/non-fiction/reference.
For example, since I love butterflies and moths, one of my most used books is:
Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner, reference book
Happy gardening and reading!


Doug Tallamy Presentation Follow Up

If you were unable to join us yesterday at the Penn State Brandywine campus to listen to a presentation given by Dr. Doug Tallamy, Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, you missed a very informative discussion. This is only my second time to hear his talk, but I can tell you that I learned something new each time, and the afternoon was well spent.

Since most of us have read his book, "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens," we are aware of the importance of providing balanced diversity within our gardens. Diversity is life, and the loss of such diversity is really a key indicator that the human systems are failing. Instead of the sterile turf grass lawns that are so common in America, we want to increase the amount of native plant material on our property which not only provides food and shelter for wildlife, but also water sources from within the plants themselves! Dr. Tallamy reminded us that caterpillars don't come down off the plants to visit a nearby pond, but instead receive their water from the leaves that they are eating.
By increasing the diversity of plants, we increase the number of insects in our gardens, which in turn increases the bird populations and other critters that feed upon these insects. If your hobby is bird watching, then you may already know that 96% of birds rear their young on insects!
Since not every native plant is created equal, Dr. Tallamy suggested that we visit the following website and download the Host Plant list which will help us determine the native plant species that we may choose to grow on our properties and increase the diversity all at the same time. Quite simply, some plants will attract more insects and caterpillars, thus providing more food sources for wildlife.
Thank you to all who attended this presentation and we hope that you found it to be an educational experience. Please do not hesitate to share any additional points that you found interesting by using the comments field below!a

Thank you also to Penn State Brandywine and Chester Ridley Crum for helping us arrange and organize such a wonderful event!


"Go Native" with these 6 basics

So, we have sent in our orders for the Wild Ones native plant group purchase for 2009. This means that we are finally thinking Spring, and before we know it, the plants will arrive and we'll have some holes to dig. With our thoughts already on the subject of native plants, I found this nice list of things to consider on the DCNR website and thought it would be good to share with the community.

1. Protect native plant communities and minimize habitat destruction
The most important guideline is to conserve already existing areas of native vegetation as a whole, functioning unit. The easiest, least expensive, and best way to conserve Pennsylvania's plant heritage is to protect existing native plant communities from further disturbance. If disturbance is necessary, strive for minimum habitat destruction. In some cases ecological restoration may be necessary, which can include planting native species, removing invasive introduced species, controlling erosion and loosening soil compaction.

2. Landscape with native plants
Native plant communities have been destroyed in many areas and therefore landscaping is required; parks, yards, streets, and campuses, for example. Well-chosen native plants perform well in these landscapes. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)-Bureau of Forestry (BOF) recommends avoiding rare, endangered, and threatened plants and instead choosing native plant species which grow commonly throughout the state. These hardy and adaptable plants do well in a wide variety of conditions and have a much better chance of success in gardens. If you do not want all natives, plant adapted introduced plants suited for the site, colorful annuals, or flowering plants that will not escape and become environmental weeds.

3. Learn more about native plants
Learn what plants are native in your area. The Resources Page lists just a few of the resources for this region, but there are many more. Many field guides can get you started.

4. Buy nursery-propagated native plants
Most retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs now offer native plants. The more consumers request native plants, the more this supply will grow. If you want guaranteed ornamental characteristics, cultivars (named varieties) are available in some cases; for instance, New England Aster has a cultivar named 'Purple Dome', which was selected for shorter height and showier flowers. Cultivars should be predictable in attributes like height, color, blooming period, or absence of seed pods/thorns--qualities many gardeners want. If your goal is genetic diversity, however, ask for straight species, not cultivars, grown from local seed sources. Plants grown from seed have much more variety than cloned cultivars.

5. Do not remove native plants from the wild
Taking native plants from the wild depletes native populations. Also, many wild-collected plants do not survive transplanting. Prevent wild-collecting of plants by making sure that plants you buy are propagated at a nursery, or by starting plants yourself from a local seed supply (Collect seed only with the property owner's permission). Ask the DCNR-BOF for a list of native plant and seed sources in Pennsylvania.

6. Practice responsible landscaping techniques
The first rule of responsible landscaping is to plant the right plants in the right environment: never introduce invasive plants to your landscape that will aggressively spread off your property and invade native plant communities. They can drastically alter ecosystems and give you and your neighbors maintenance headaches for years to come. Ask the DCNR-BOF for the brochure "Invasive Plants in Pennsylvania." When landscaping with native plants it is important to choose plants that will grow well at the site: wet or dry, shade or sun, acid or neutral soil. A good trick is to notice which native plants are thriving nearby, and to use those clues to guide plant selection. Other information can be found from plant nurseries, catalogs, books, or the Internet. For soil fertility, compost and mulch of leaves or grass clippings provide slow release nutrients. Chemical fertilizers often provide too many nutrients too quickly for native plants, and this flush of nutrients gives weeds a competitive edge. Proper site preparation begins with a soil test before applying fertilizer. Try organic pest control. Keep the soil covered to prevent weeds. Remove invasive plants nearby. Take out severely diseased plants, or ones with insect infestations. Many native plants attract beneficial insects which help control pests, so try creating habitat for "good bugs."


Please share interesting tidbits that you stumble across as well.