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December 2021 — Volume XXVII, Number 12— Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

Ground cedar

Ground cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum) is not related to cedar, being one of the few members of the Lycopodiopsida class (club mosses, firmosses, and quillworts). All living vascular plants are classified as either Lycopodiopsida, Polypodiophyta (ferns and horsetails), or spermatophytes (seed-producing plants). Photo by Ellen Honeycutt.

New Directions for Stone Mountain Propagation Project


Since 2009, many of you who are GNPS members in the Atlanta area have volunteered at our propagation site at Stone Mountain Park. Historically, Stone Mountain Propagation Project (SMPP) focused on growing a wide variety of native plant species for the Atlanta area plant sales where the customers were home gardeners. Thus, we grew primarily what we knew people would buy, sometimes just for the fun of seeing if we could grow it.

In recent years, more native plant nurseries have sprung up and it makes sense for GNPS to encourage our members to support those nurseries, not compete with them. Likewise, time has brought a sense of urgency about reclaiming land overrun with invasive species and restoring it with suitable native plants. More people are seeking to restore parks and greenspaces, even their own yards and properties. In step with these times, we will focus our propagation efforts in a new, more conservation-minded direction, with the following goals:

  • Growing a higher volume of a limited number of species of Piedmont ecotypes. Seeds or vegetative material used will be regionally sourced with provenance tracked. We will focus on forbs that support habitats for insects, birds, and other wildlife, due to their ecosystem importance and high demand.
  • Growing a limited number of Piedmont woody plants that deserve wider use but are not widely available.
  • Acting as a holding area for plants from rescue sites that are awaiting transfer to restoration projects run by GNPS or the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA)
  • Establishing colonies of rescued species in raised beds or on our site to use for propagation.
  • Seed collection of local ecotypes both at Stone Mountain and by field trip to other regional locations where we have permission to collect. We will explore the potential to contribute to State Botanical Garden’s regional seed bank.

Additionally, Georgia Audubon has engaged us to grow plants for their site restoration projects, beginning with a prairie restoration project planned at Panola Mountain State Park for next spring. We plan to deliver an order of 10,000 pollinator plugs to Audubon for this effort. We also will work on growing or obtaining via the rescue program plants needed by GNPS or GPCA restoration sites. Such endeavors also will allow us to play a larger, more prominent role in the conservation and increasing use of native ecotype species.

To bolster our partnership with Stone Mountain Park, GNPS volunteers have assumed responsibility for the light maintenance of three areas within the Stone Mountain Park: two pollinator plant strips in the mountain walk-up trail parking lot, the Harold Cox Nature Garden, and the Pen Women’s Garden. Work in these areas primarily involves weed and invasive plant removal, spreading mulch, caring for plant signs, and installing or dividing plants, as needed. Volunteer support at SMPP has remained very strong through 2020 and into 2021. This year we began diligently tracking our hours, and volunteers have logged over 1,000 hours to date, performing either propagation activities or maintenance. All volunteers agree that they learn much, enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the park, and bask in the camaraderie of like-minded folks.

If you haven’t yet volunteered with us at Stone Mountain area yet, or if it has been a while since you joined us, we’d love to have you. We will need many hands to make light work of our propagation project for Audubon and our new conservation directions. Soon, we will update the Stone Mountain Propagation area of the website with links to the workday signups. In the meantime, if you can’t wait to join us, please email me at [email protected].

And the winner is...

We are happy to announce that our 2022 Plant of the Year is American beech (Fagus grandifolia). You can read more about this wonderful tree in our January 2022 newsletter.

Symposium — Save the date!

The 2022 GNPS Symposium will once again be virtual, and we will continue to partner with Georgia Audubon. Watch for more details, but meanwhile save the dates: February 19th and 20th.

Plant Spotlight: Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).

I noticed this week that one of my purple coneflowers has a fresh flower – perhaps thanks to good rain and warm days. Those re-blooming surprises are nice, but there is one native plant that dependably blooms in November, even into December. Witch hazel (also spelled witch-hazel and witchhazel) is a large native shrub found throughout the state. Hamamelis virginiana is one of three related plants (H. vernalis and H. ovalis are not found in Georgia) in the United States; there are two other species of Hamamelis in Asia and many of these (plus hybrids) are also sold in Georgia, so shop carefully.

According to Wikipedia, the name witch in witch hazel has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable", and is not related to the word witch meaning a practitioner of magic. Early European settlers observed Native Americans using American witch hazel as dowsing or divining rods to find underground sources of water. For those of you wondering, extracts from its roots and bark are indeed the source of the common astringent that bears its name.

I personally find the late season flowers quite "bewitching" and was pleased to see them on a November hike at Vogel State Park as well as on Thanksgiving Day in my own yard. My plant was from a plant rescue in Canton where years ago we found a large colony of it. The four-petaled flowers are held close to the stem and can be lightly fragrant. They are pollinated by flies, late bees and wasps, and moths.

If the plant is not blooming, its simple, toothed leaves are easy to mistake for something else such as a beech, birch, alder, or elm – all plants with simple, toothed leaves in alternate arrangement. If it is late enough in the year, I like to point out a key difference for this plant: the leaf buds formed for the following year are absent of any bud scales, also known as naked. The dwarf witch-alder (Fothergilla) shares this characteristic and they are both in the same family (Hamamelidaceae).

Site this shrub carefully to allow for natural growth which is up to 20 feet tall at maturity and 12 feet wide. Folks with smaller yards might use this as a substitute for a small tree. It grows best in moist or average soil (not dry) and where it is protected from afternoon sun. Small black seeds develop in a capsule from the pollinated flowers and spring open to eject the seeds almost one full year later. Check out this post for more good information and pictures of our native witch hazel.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Left: Witch hazel flowers with seed capsules. Right: Fall foliage.

Conservation Efforts for Amorpha georgiana

Several members of Coastal Plain Chapter collaborate regularly with partners in the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA). GPCA recently designated a workday in October for field work throughout Georgia to protect a variety of plant species of concern. Amy Heidt, Paul Sumner, and Heather Brasell joined Mincy Moffett (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CPC member) and Blake Adams (Orianne Society) for in a workday in Telfair County.

Mincy described the goal of the workday as life support for Amorpha georgiana (Georgia indigo bush). Georgia indigo bush occurs primarily on sandy pine/shrub/wiregrass terraces along rivers and large streams, and is known to still exist in the wild at just three sites in Georgia. (One of these three is the new find in Turner County discussed below). In Telfair County, populations had been documented on two privately owned properties. Both sites were wooded, with little light reaching the ground. Clumps of Georgia indigo bush were surviving only along trails and other gaps in the forest, including take-out rows in the plantations. Armed with saws, loppers and herbicide to treat the stumps, we visited each population and cleared all competing shrubby vegetation from a buffer of at least a yard around each plant, also removing some overhanging branches.

Georgia indigo bush conservation

Left: Paul Sumner, Amy Heidt, Blake Adams, and Mincy Moffett with the largest clump of Georgia indigo bush. Right: Clearing competing vegetation from around a clump of Georgia indigo bush.

Longer-term conservation plans for Georgia indigo bush include collecting seed from the plants, propagating them, then planting mature plants back to similar habitats nearby (i.e., in situ safeguarding). Our Coastal Plain Chapter members are on board to help with each of these efforts. At both properties, thinning the canopy trees and burning the understory would benefit not only the Georgia indigo bush but also the wildlife habitat in general.

Volunteer opportunities like this are a great way for GNPS members to learn about native plants and their habitat requirements, as well as to support critical conservation efforts in natural communities by our conservation partners. Serendipitously, the following day, Amy and Paul were visiting a site in Turner County at the landowner’s request where they discovered a population of Georgia indigo bush that had not been documented previously. Needless to say, they probably would not have noticed the plants if they had not participated in the workday.

Amy and Paul revisited the site with the landowner and three DNR employees (Stephanie Koontz, Morgan Bettcher, and Amaad Blades) on November 10th to complete a first survey of the newly discovered population. In all, over 80 plants were counted in the area of the first observation. We are looking forward to future trips to the site to help with management, possibly discover more individuals, and hopefully find flowers with seeds to collect in the spring/summer months of 2022.

Native Fauna Need Native Flora: Leave the Seeds!

Cardinal on tuliptree

Northern cardinal on tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). Photo by Gena Flanigen.

You’ve seen the “Leave the leaves” posts on social media but how about leave the seeds? Walking along the sidewalk and driveway, you might spot the fallen seeds of two of our most abundant plants: the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and pine trees such as loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). These seeds will persist through the winter, providing food for our resident birds like the cardinal.

I know it’s not possible for everyone, but I like to sweep (or even rake) my driveway and sidewalk and one of the benefits is that I leave many of these fallen seeds behind. Not as noticeable as the showy fall fruits of flowering dogwood, hollies, and viburnums, these seeds satisfy a wide range of granivorous birds as well as small mammals. Other sources of fall seeds include sweetgum (those spiky balls are really capsules filled with small seeds that do get eaten), acorns, beechnuts, and the dried seedheads of your fall perennials (asters, goldenrod, sunflowers, rudbeckia). Don’t be so quick to clean up this buffet of seeds; instead, sit back with your binoculars and watch the birds.

We continue to solicit submissions from other GNPS members on the interdependencies of wildlife and native plants, either as occasional contributions or on a regular basis. If you have a background in any aspect of wildlife, whether it be insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, or reptiles, and you wish to write an article, please contact us at [email protected].

Primrose and big brown bat

Clockwise from top left: Loblolly pinecone and separated seeds; Many fall perennials provide small seeds; Tulip tree leaves, seed cone, and seeds; Sweetgum capsule and seeds.

Chapter News

If you haven't checked out the GNPS Chapters page recently, take a look now and watch for updates in the future. The old chapter map has been updated, showing the centers of chapter leadership and none of the misleading "boundaries" around chapters. You can affiliate with any single chapter that you like, and you can keep an eye on activities in other chapters that may interest you, both by watching for posts at the bottom of that page or events on the Events Calendar, which can be filtered to show only "Chapter Events."

When new GNPS chapters are forming, there are many tasks the start-up committee must complete. Five of our new chapters have reached a milestone in that process, making them eligible for Provisional status and many benefits. Congratulations to these five forming chapters who have achieved Provisional Chapter status: Augusta’s River Region Chapter, Fringed Campion Chapter (Macon), Intown Atlanta Chapter, North Metro Atlanta Chapter, and North Georgia Mountains Chapter. Be sure to check the GNPS calendar and the GNPS Facebook page to find events for these chapters in your area. Also forming is the Athens Chapter and a new chapter in the Lake Lanier area.

For those interested in the new Lake Lanier chapter, consider going to the virtual Lake Lanier Area Chapter Interest Meeting on December 5th. (Register at the link on that page.)

If you are receiving NativeScape as a GNPS member, but are not affiliated with the chapter that you wish to support, contact us at [email protected] for information on how to change your chapter affiliation.

Augusta's River Region Chapter

The Augusta's River Region Chapter has completed all startup steps and is now the fifth new chapter to reach provisional status in 2021, awaiting only approval of federal tax-exempt status.

Coastal Plain Chapter

The Coastal Plain Chapter held its 2021 Annual Meeting and Miniconference on November 6. As an existing legacy chapter, new by-laws were discussed and approved, maintaining consistency with the new statewide organization. The 2022 Board of Directors slate was also approved. Educational presenters included Eamonn Leonard, Erin Cork Heather Brasell, and Katie Antczak.

Fringed Campion Chapter

The Fringed Campion Chapter held a native Plant Propagation Workshop on November 6th, including presentations by Greg Lewis and Dr. Chris Inhulsen.

Trees Atlanta Sale

Propagation workshop leaders Greg Lewis (left) and Dr. Chris Inhulsen (right). Photos by Donna Bennett.

Intown Atlanta Chapter

The Intown Atlanta Chapter held its inaugural annual meeting on November 7th, approving the chapter’s bylaws and electing its first Board of Directors. We met at Zonolite Park, located at 1164 Zonolite Place in Atlanta. Sally Sears gave an inspiring talk about how South Fork Conservancy worked with a coalition of federal, state and local organizations (including GNPS) to turn an industrial wasteland contaminated by asbestos into a 13-acre urban sanctuary. A summary of the day with photos can be found at the Nurture Native Nature blog of new Intown board member Laura Markson. We hope others will visit this gem of a park!

The Preserve at St. Mark is an ongoing project of Mother Mamie Moore and Pastor Winston Taylor on the west side of Atlanta. Intown Atlanta Chapter members Alex Dileo and Tom Collins met with them to learn about the Preserve, as well as to explore opportunities to increase usage of native plants in the English Avenue community in Atlanta. An impressive pollinator garden has already been established on the street front of the old church building, and the interior of the unroofed structure serves as an open-air community meeting space with potential for more plantings. Of particular interest now is the education of community residents in the use of native plants in their own yards. Watch for news about how you can get involved in this exciting project!

St. Mark Preserve

Left: Pastor Winston Taylor gives a tour of the Preserve at St. Mark. Middle: The interior of the building is now a courtyard. Right: Exterior signage is part of the community education effort.

North Georgia Mountains Chapter

The North Georgia Mountains Chapter will be holding their first annual meeting on December 11th.

North Metro Chapter

N. Metro Board

The newly elected board for the North Metro Atlanta Chapter. From left to right: Renee Hood, Dana Hallberg, Carling Kirk, and Lilly Vicens. Not pictured: Pat Carson and Whitney Ramsey.

The North Metro Chapter held its first annual meeting on November 6th, approving by-laws and electing the Board of Directors. Committees are currently forming and planning for the next year.

West Georgia Chapter

The West Georgia Chapter is pleased to announce that the Community Foundation of West Georgia has awarded us a Community Impact Grant. The grant is titled: Erosion Control on the Buffalo Creek. The monies will be used to purchase quantities of native plants to plant along the creek in order to hold the banks. We are grateful for the continued support of this wonderful agency.

The Chapter will hold its Annual Business Meeting and Holiday Party on December 14th, gathering at 6:30 pm and ending at 8 pm. Mike Strickland will once again host the "Identifying Trees and Shrubs in the Winter Landscape Competition." Winner is awarded a year's membership in GNPS. The event will be held at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Carrollton.

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

GNPS trademark

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