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August 2019 — Volume XXV, Number 8 — Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

Elaine Nash Honored with Award of Excellence

Elaine Nash award at Cullowhee

Left to right: Elaine Nash (photo by Lisa Kennedy); Elaine reluctantly taking a break from work at SMPP to receive award from Karen McCaustland (photo by Lori Conway); Elaine enjoying her passion for native grasslands (photo by Jenny Cruse Sanders).

At the 2019 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference on July 19th, GNPS member Elaine Nash was honored with the Tom Dodd Jr. Award of Excellence. This award has been presented annually at the conference since 1987, making Elaine the 33rd recipient. The award recognizes those who have excelled in one or more of the following categories: (1) conservation of native flora in situ, (2) studying and promoting the understanding of native flora, (3) building expertise in the propagation/cultivation of native plants, and (4) the use of native plants in a diversity of natural and designed landscapes.

Elaine’s contributions touch on every one of those categories through direct efforts as well as through the many people she has taught and inspired over years of involvement with a number of organizations: the Georgia Native Plant Society, the Georgia Botanical Society, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, as well as chair of the scholarship committee at the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference.

She became interested in native plants while a Soil and Water District Supervisor for 10 years. She studied grasses specifically and became an expert. She has shared her knowledge with numerous people and in numerous ways. Her work with the State Botanical Garden to create a Piedmont Prairie in a Georgia Power right-of-way crossing SBG’s property has flourished so much that the now-named ‘Elaine Nash Prairie Restoration Project’ has become a significant part of the Garden’s outreach and education programs, hosting classes in pollinator and plant identification and in prairie creation. Her help and guidance at Panola Mountain State Park has similarly grown and the work at Panola is now helping to teach others. According to Linda Chafin, “The grassland is so successful that the park now donates seed from the grassland to other restoration projects around the state. These projects — restored and created grasslands across the Georgia Piedmont – are Elaine’s ‘botanical grandchildren’ – a legacy of biodiversity conservation.”

She is co-author of Native Plants for Georgia, a comprehensive 4-part web-based publication of the UGA Extension Service that continues to educate people as free downloads from their website. She has personally taught many people through classes in the Native Plant Certificate program at SBG as well as mentoring State Park employees, members of the Georgia Botanical Society, and members of GNPS. Her guidance as chair of scholarship and grant committees has helped to fund important field botany research and nurture the growing interest of numerous students in the study and importance of Georgia’s native plants.

At GNPS, she has been a significant contributor to our work at the Stone Mountain Propagation Project (SMPP). Ten years ago we formed a cooperative alliance with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) to establish a propagation area within Stone Mountain Park to provide native plants through propagation and/or rescue of native plants. Elaine has been instrumental in training volunteers in a variety of propagation essentials such as proper seed collection techniques, collection timing, how to determine maturity and fertility, cleaning, and storage. In addition to propagation by seed, the SMPP has also done root and stem cutting propagation under her guidance.

Of course, Elaine has also been an avid supporter of GNPS plant sales, both spring and fall, helping customers to make appropriate selections for their gardens, especially in the area of native grasses. No matter your question to her about a plant, you’re sure to learn the answer and more! Many of us have learned so much from her and could not imagine a more deserving recipient of this distinguished award.

Chapter News: Redbud

Left: Making of medicinal salves from elderberry,  echinacea and plantain was demonstrated in the hands-on session of the June 12 Wildwood Ramble workshop. Right: Wildcrafter Ila Hatter served up fritters of  elderberry (Sambucus) flowers with elderberry syrup to prove the adage of 19th century naturalist Henry David Thoreau, “Woods and fields are a table always spread.” (Left to right, Redbud volunteer Ellen Claessen and Hatter.)

Natives as Native Americans Knew Them

As natural habitats diminish with unsustainable economic development, so do native plants that Native Americans found so beneficial for food and medicine.  For the June program of the Redbud Chapter, Lady of the Forest Ila Hatter shared her wisdom and wit of wild plants for cuisine and medicine in Dig the Natives — The Roots of Remedies.

A naturalist, artist and “wildcrafter,” Hatter tunes people in to the many ways they can make Mother Nature’s pantry and medicine cabinet their own. From her Native American heritage — a descendant of Pocahontas  — she was raised on natural remedies along with love and respect for nature.

Hatter follows the Cherokee beliefs that we have been gifted by the Creator with an understanding of how to gather, use, and preserve medicinal herbs for healing and wellness.  She teaches how to identify plants and how to use them for their practical applications. She follows the traditional Native American practices of foraging wild plants:

  • Identify a plant and use it wisely,
  • Gather only every fourth plant, passing over the first three,
  • Ask the plant’s permission to be gathered, and
  • Leave a strand of hair, a fingernail, a small bead or trinket.

From her home among the Cherokee in Southern Appalachia for over 30 years, she has studied native plants and foraged for edible and medicinal species where plant life is more diverse than anywhere else on the North American continent. Edible plants in Appalachia were a source of much trade between the Cherokee for thousands of years. When white settlers began moving into Appalachia in the 1700s, the Cherokee shared their wisdom of wild plants for food and medicine and shared their heritage of “wildcrafting,” as plant collecting is called. They helped families survive the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Today, sustainable wildcrafting and botanical farming provide much of the 25 percent of plant material used in modern prescription medicines produced by pharmaceutical and homeopathic companies.  The diverse ecosystems of Appalachia account for some 130 tree species, 1600 flowering plants, 4000 non-flowering plants, 200 bird species, 60 native mammals, and 215 reptiles and amphibians, including almost 80 salamanders, making the Smoky Mountains the “salamander capital of the world.”

Naturalist Ila Hatter has been featured on PBS, CNN, NBC, and A&E. For the CBS TV series Christy, she dressed the set and provided the doctors’ medicinals and apothecary.  She produced the Ironwood Production video series Wild Edibles and Medicinals of Southern Appalachia.  She edited Roadside Rambles, a collection of wild food recipes, and co-edited Plants of the Cherokee.

Wildwood Ramble workshop participants roamed the fields and forests in the footsteps of Native American Ila Hatter to identify edible and medicinal wild plants.

Plants from the Wild for Food and Medicine — Ila Hatter Recipes

Harvest Pie

  • 2 cups ripe elderberries
  • 3 cups sliced apples
  • 1 cup blueberries (optional)
  • 2 cups sugar or 1 cup honey
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. crushed spicebush berries or 2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix apples with sugar, spice and lemon.  Pour into unbaked pie shell. Scatter elderberries evenly over apples.  Dot with butter in several places. Top with crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 min. Reduce to 350 degrees for 45 min or until light brown and bubbling. Bake until light brown and filling bubbles.

Jewelmint Lotion

  • 2 cups jewelweed stems, peeled and cut in 6” pieces
  • 1 cup mint leaves (optional)
  • 1 cup aloe vera gel or juice
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup witch hazel (optional)
  • 1 cup water (1/2 cup if witch hazel added)

Put in blender or food processor and blend well, adding more water or witch hazel as needed. Strain and bottle in sterile jars.  Keep refrigerated. (Without witch hazel, mixture may be frozen in ice cube tray.)

Use for poison ivy, nettle rash, sunburn, insect bites, facial astringent.

Plant Spotlight: Rudbeckia laciniata

Rudbeckia Laciniata

Cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) is a tall and sparsely-petaled member of the family, here being visited by an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus).

Rudbeckia is a genus name most often associated with the common name ‘black-eyed Susan,’ with flowers having bright yellow rays and dark brown centers of tiny disk flowers. Cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) is kind of like that relative in the family with different features that made you wonder what the milkman looked like. It’s a large perennial plant, easily reaching over 5 feet in my garden, growing even larger when in a sunny, wet area. Deeply lobed leaves give it the cut-leaf common name while a green center sometimes has people calling it green-headed coneflower.

While popular as a garden plant, the natural distribution in Georgia is a bit scattered among spots in the Piedmont and the upper Coastal Plain. We have found it on at least one rescue site in Cherokee County. It self-sows readily and is often shared among friends. I noticed recently that I have some seedlings that I need to pot up for one of our plant sales, although one is already marked for a friend. Give it plenty of room in your garden, in a moist place if you have it, and then stand back and admire the pollinators and birds that visit it for pollen, nectar, and seeds.

Workshop on Native Plants at Stone Mountain Park

Why Garden with Native Plants?

Workshop participants were greeted by blooming St. John's wort (Hypericum frondosum) and bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora). Photos by Don Linke.

The end of June brought an additional workshop to GNPS members at Stone Mountain Park. The Why Garden with Native Plants? program introduced — and mainly reinforced to the enthusiastic group — the benefits of gardening with our lovely natives. Not only did we discuss the benefits to the ecosystem, we also explored why native plants give you such a connection to where you are living. What ongoing and present experiences with plants have been known by your ancestors or by others who have lived in the same area? Our home landscapes can help highlight what makes this southern piedmont region of Georgia special and unique.

The more familiar we are with native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, the more likely we are to like them, use them, embrace them and make them “our own.” So after our discussion, we ventured outside to see some in the sun and shade. Two parking lot islands in the Confederate Hall Education Center lot take advantage of the abundant sunshine. Pollinator gardens have been planted with spring, summer and fall blooming flowers. Especially noteworthy are wild indigo varieties (Baptisia australis and B. tinctoria), a bluestar (Amsonia ciliata), and several varieties of coneflower (Echinacea spp. and Rudbeckia spp.). Towering above it all are hollow Joe-Pye weed, (Eutrochium fistulosum), giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa) and even tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum).

Why Garden with Native Plants?

The tour included a visit with SMPP Nursery Manager Matt Shaw, seen here showing how to put a sachet bag on a plant to passively collect seeds, as well as a tour of the Harold Cox Nature Garden. Photos by Don Linke.

In the nearby woodland Harold Cox Nature Garden we explored the shade-lovers. Here and in many forests in the park were pawpaw (Asimina triloba), eastern sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina), climbing hydrangea (Decumaria barbara), bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) and more. Beautiful ferns can also be found: New York (Thelypteris noveboracensis), Christmas (Polystichum acrostichoides), northern maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum), lady (Athyrium filix-femina), and royal (Osmunda regalis).

The tour also included a visit to the GNPS Stone Mountain Propagation Project (SMPP). We saw a workday in progress where Elaine Nash used mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) to teach how to propagate softwood cuttings. Lori Conway, GNPS Board member, and Matt Shaw, Nursery Manager, spoke with us. They explained the overall workings, purpose and plan of SMPP. Matt gave us the potting soil “recipe” used for this successful operation.

Several program participants were new members of GNPS. As we experience time and time again, they were happy to find kindred spirits.

Georgia Pollinator Census Update

Back in the June issue of NativeSCAPE, we announced the upcoming Great Georgia Pollinator Census, a citizen science project focusing on the conservation of our pollinator species. Well, it is almost here, taking place on August 23rd and 24th in various events around the state, and maybe in your own yard. The Great Georgia Pollinator Census is an initiative of the University of Georgia Extension that encourages Georgians to record the numbers and types of pollinators observed on plants during late summer. As their web site emphasizes, “You do not have to be an entomologist to be part of this important project! The census was designed for individuals, families, garden clubs, school groups, friends — ALL Georgians to participate.”

Don't wait for the big weekend! At the Pollinator Census web site, you can learn on your own how to count pollinators, or find educational events to get ready, including these that are listed at https://ggapc.org/events/:

  • August 8th: Make Pollinators Count Lunch and Learn, Griffin. This event is specifically for residents of Spalding, Pike, Meriwether, Lamar and Upson Counties.
  • August 15th: Create a Welcome Space for Pollinators, Decatur.
  • August 20th: Getting Ready for the Pollinator Census, Milner.

When you're ready, decide where you're going to count. If you are interested in a community event, scroll to the bottom of that same page (https://ggapc.org/events/) to find an event where you can contribute to this valuable effort, including

  • Pine Lake (Pine Lake Clubhouse)
  • Marietta (Cobb County Water Lab)
  • Canton (Night Song Native Plant Nursery)
  • Augusta (Phinizy Swamp Nature Park)
  • Macon (location to be announced)
  • Winder (Fort Yargo State Park)
  • Barnesville (Lamar Library)
  • Concord (Concord Event Center)
  • Molena (Wild Daisy Farm)
  • Lamar County (location to be announced)
  • Thomaston (Upson Butterfly Garden)

More events are in the works, so keep watching for opportunities to participate. One possibility is an emerging partnership between GNPS and Quail Forever, an organization that works with private landowners to improve early successional wildlife habitat for quail and other birds, threatened species like the gopher tortoise, pollinators, and other upland species which rely on the same types of habitat management. GNPS is especially interested in their efforts to conserve longleaf pine ecosystems.

Some events are Friday or Saturday only, and some require advance registration, but most allow drop-in participation for short periods, because each count only takes 15 minutes. You can also plan your own event and let us know how to publicize it. Or take up the invitation of Gail Farley, especially if you are a Coastal Plain member, and visit beautiful St. Marys, Georgia.

2019 Cullowhee Conference Takeaway

Upon my arrival at the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee, North Carolina, I felt extremely grateful to be in attendance at the 36th annual Cullowhee Native Plant Conference. The conference has always been located deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and every summer it is the convergence point for plant professionals, hobbyist, enthusiasts, and overall lovers of nature. As this was my first Cullowhee experience, I had no idea what the trip would entail, but I returned with a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and new friends. As the current propagation manager at the GNPS Stone Mountain Propagation Project, it was extremely interesting to talk with all the different plant nurseries in attendance and to pick the brains of intelligent professionals in the fields of entomology, ornithology, botany, forestry, and natural resources management.

A general theme I found among most the nurseries was the use of eco-type seed from their local area and the use of mycorrhizae in their up-potting mixes. Eco-type seed is seed that is collected from a specific plant population that has genetically adapted to its local environment's soil, climate, and disturbance conditions. In other words, a seed of hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) that has adapted to grow on rocky outcrops in the Southeast is going to have a different tolerance to heat and drought than the same species growing on a sandy river bank in Michigan.

Seed collection methods were also discussed in the plant propagation workshop. When collecting seed via a permit or on private land, it is very important to mitigate human disturbance on wild populations while maximizing the genetic diversity of your stock. It was recommended never to collect more than one-fifth of available seed and to collect from multiple individuals in the population to capture a larger pool of genetic material. The same is said for cuttings, where disturbance should be minimized while genetic preservation should be maximized by collecting from a large enough population.

While our focus is on native plants, it is important to note the differences in native flora when compared to invasive flora. During the ornithology lecture, it was determined through research at RIT that migratory birds have preference to native flora with high fat and anthocyanin content such as pokeweed, maple-leaf viburnum, dogwood, elderberry, serviceberry, and black cherry. However, when these plants are not in abundance, exhausted birds will choose more available species such as bush honeysuckle, bradford pear, and privet. These non-native alternatives offer less anthocyanin and fat content compared to natives, and birds are observed to eat much more of this non-native seed to achieve the same level of fat and nutrients. Pigmentation can also be affected, such as that observed in Baltimore orioles that are eating a diet high in bush honeysuckle, as they will change from black/orange to orange/yellow due to the overabundant presence of caratenoids.

A final takeaway that is worthy of consideration is the effect of our climatic and seasonal cycles. As the climate continues to change, as it always does, it is important to be in tune with how these changes will affect our flora. During Bill Finch's lecture, he spoke of how the most efficient time for C3 plant photosynthesis is the hours right after the sun rises and right before the sun sets. He infers that C3 plant photosynthesis will suffer if nighttime and daytime temperatures have little variation. As a plant propagator, it seems worthwhile to begin to take records of other variables aside from just daytime temperature and precipitation, such as nighttime temperature and humidity, to stay in tune with how our plants are responding to changes to climatic variables.

I learned much more than has been covered here, so if anyone has questions or would like me to provide more information, I will gladly do so. Send messages to me at [email protected]. I will definitely plan to attend the Cullowhee Conference again in the future, and I feel that it continues to make a strong case for why we need to understand and protect the flora and fauna local to each of our communities. It is by doing this work that we can both appreciate our natural communities and build relationships within them where we can help, not hinder, the ecosystems that sustain life for all living things.

[Editors Note: The next Cullowhee Native Plant Conference is scheduled for July 22-25, 2019.]

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Georgia Native Plant Society
PO Box 422085
Atlanta, GA 30342
(770) 343-6000

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