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Archive for ‘October, 2016’

20161012_095018On Tuesday, October 12, 2016, St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre assisted in a ceremonial tree planting in Port Hope, Ontario in support of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute.  This campaign is dedicated to the establishment of 117,000 trees along the stretch of Highway 401 running between Trenton and Toronto known as the Highway of Heroes.  Each tree will be planted in tribute to a member of the Canadian Forces who gave their life in service to our country.

“In every tree planted the miracle of nature represents new life, a hope for the future as each tree reaches ever more upward towards the sky in a beautiful memorial to those who gave so much for so many,” said Lou Rinaldi, M.P.P. for Northumberland-Quinte West.

20161012_094433This planting includes a selection of ecologically appropriate Ontario wild-type native trees grown and planted by St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre.  Tree species planted this week, included Freemans Maple, Sugar Maple, Red Oak, Black Oak, Bitternut Hickory, Hackberry, and Ironwood.  “St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre are pleased to be a part of this project,” said President, Allan Arthur.  “Planting trees, which are truly native to this land, is a uniquely Canadian tribute to these men and women heroes of our country.”

Mass plantings such as these aid biodiversity, and the numerous connections among species that builds ecological integrity, function, and sustainability.  The areas that run alongside our highways provide us with an opportunity to enrich our forestation and improve the ecosystem.  “This campaign is an intersection of Remembrance, Environment and Community – and in a wonderfully Canadian way it honours the men and women who have helped shape this

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This month’s Ask An Expert Question Is: I would like to grow a butterfly garden but it’s difficult to find milkweed plants.  Can you recommend any other plants that would attract butterflies?

monarchMilkweed plants are in high demand right now and so may be tricky to find at certain times of year. St. Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre carries five different species of Milkweed (Common/Kansas, Butterfly, Swamp, Whorled, Sullivant’s), and each of them attracts butterflies as well as bees, and all host Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Milkweeds are great for feeding monarch caterpillars, but adult monarchs, and other species of adult butterflies feed a variety of native summer wildflowers.

Remember, if a plant has a colorful flower, it needs to be pollinated by an insect of some form or another. The truth is– all wildflowers are “pollinator plants”, particularly the native ones. 

Not all flowers are created equally though. Some have evolved to attract bees, some to attract humming birds, and some are specialized to attract butterflies. However, the vast majority of flowering plants are pollinator generalists, meaning the can be pollinated by a wide variety of animal mutualists.

Butterflies usually prefer flat landing pads from which to feed. The flat topped inflorescences of aster and goldenrod plants are ideal landing pads, and the short, simple flowers are easy for butterflies to access. Many plants in the Aster family have these features, and are a safe best for attracting butterflies and other pollinators.

Few people realize that goldenrods are native plants and that there are at least a dozen species that make ideal garden plants. Not all are aggressive spreaders like Canada Goldenrod. A complete list of the best goldenrods for the home garden is included at the end. Also, please note that goldenrod does not cause allergies. In fact, no plant with large colour can cause allergies. Since they are insect pollinated, their pollen grains are too heavy and sticky to be carried in the wind and into your nose. All of your pollen allergies are caused by wind-pollinated plants. Most people who think they are allergic to goldenrod are actually allergic to ragweed, whose small green flowers are wind pollinated. Goldenrod gets blamed because it’s so showy and ubiquitous.

All-TypesSome large butterflies are drawn to reds and oranges over other colours, but there are no hard and fast rules for colour. Flower form appears to play a larger role. For example, plants with bilaterally symmetrical  (like a face) and tubular flowers are adapted to attract bees (eg. Beardtongues, Blue Lobelia). Butterflies can’t crawl inside these tubes to access nectar.  However, butterflies do have long tongues to access nectar hidden away in long skinny nectar spurs, so long as there are a landing pad for them to hold onto.  A wonderful example of pollinator by butterflies driving the evolution of flower form and colour can be seen in Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. It’s closest relatives have stout blueish flowers, specialized for bees to pry open and climb inside. Cardinal flower on the other hand had red petals, and narrowed, elongated flowers that restrict bees from entering, allowing only butterflies with long tongues and hummingbirds to reach the nectar inside. The bottom lobe of petals has even widened to allow butterflies to land.

While monarchs rely on milkweed for their young to eat, other rare and threatened butterflies rely on other specific food hosts for their offspring. Mottled Dusky Wing caterpillars feed primarily from New Jersey Tea, and Karner Blue Butterfly caterpillars eat only on Blue Lupine.

To help your garden appeal to butterflies all year round try these native species as nectaring hosts and larval hosts:

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Canada Wild Rye cropRestoring native landscapes requires the right set of tools, and no plant works harder than Canada Wild Rye.

Wild Rye grasses are fast growing and form tidy clumps, approximately one metre tall. This plant is available as seedling plugs or in pots, and Canada Rye also establishes very well from direct-sown seed. Since it germinates so quickly, without too much care, it is open used to stabilize slopes, and help prevent erosion. Also, because it is an early successional species and take hold of a site right away, it is able to complete with many non-native weeds, and help to deflect potential invasions. Check out our Wild-type Seed Mixes for your next habitat restoration project.

Elymus canadensisLike many grassland species, Canada Rye responds well to disturbance, and may require periodic splitting of clumps in a garden setting, or periodic mowing (or prescribed burning) in a naturalized setting.

One of our more charismatic native grasses, Canada Wild Rye flowers in spring, developing into a furry, pendulous seed-head, each seed tipped with a corkscrew awn. It’s attractive foliage is distinctly blue until the seed ripens in late summer. The golden-brown seed-heads can add late season interest and texture to your garden.


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