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January 2020 — Volume XXVI, Number 1— Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

2020 Plant of the Year Southern Mountainmint


Message from the 2020 Board of Directors

Happy New Year and welcome to a new GNPS! As of January 1, 2020, a new State Board takes effect with an emphasis on governing at the state level. The day-to-day work of implementing our mission and caring for our members will accomplished by our chapters. Our three existing chapters – West Georgia, Coastal Plain, and Redbud – have illustrated how well that can be done. We are now in the process of supporting the creation of new chapters for members in metro Atlanta as well as throughout the state. Read more about the chapter formation work in Lori Conway's article below in this newsletter.

If you’ve missed any of the information we’ve shared about this change over the last several months, refresh yourself by reading this information on the website. We’re excited about this change for GNPS and look forward to developing and enhancing state-level strategic partnerships, encouraging more local activities, and helping chapters in more substantive ways.

We’ll share more information as the year progresses, but we’ll start with building our committees: Education, Conservation, Membership, Finance, Audit, and Governance. Member participation in at least the first three committees is essential to ensuring that we are crafting policies that meet local as well as statewide needs and concerns. Express your interest in working on those committees by emailing us at board@gnps.org.

You can also reach the committee chairs directly via email:  

Education Leslie Edwards leslie.edwards@gnps.org
Conservation Amy Heidt   amy.heidt@gnps.org
Membership Michele Buchanan michele.buchanan@gnps.org
Finance  Ron Smith ron.smith@gnps.org
Audit Tom Collins tom.collins@gnps.org
Governance   Lori Conway loriconway@gnps.org

Three additional members make up the new nine-member state board: Ellen Honeycutt, Marc LaFountain, and Henning von Schmeling. We all look forward to working for the best of GNPS in 2020.

Southern Mountainmint, GNPS Plant of the Year 2020

2020 Plant of the Year Southern Mountainmint

Our GNPS 2020 Plant of the Year, southern mountainmint (Pycnanthemum pycnanthemoides), is native throughout Georgia, where it thrives in meadows, roadsides, and woodland openings. Reaching 3-6’ tall, it has simple, opposite, lightly toothed leaves that are lanceolate in shape. The upper leaves, as well as the bracts beneath the flowers, are covered in short, curly white hairs. In summer, the plant looks like it has been dusted with powdered sugar.

Southern mountainmint blooms throughout the summer. Beginning in June, each stem is topped by a roughly inch-wide inflorescence of tiny, tightly clustered, irregularly shaped white flowers with pinkish-purple markings. The genus name, Pycnanthemum, comes from the Greek “pyknos” (dense), and “anthos” (flower), in reference to the packed flower heads. Within each head, individual flowers typically do not all open at the same time, but blossom progressively until early September, providing pollen and nectar for myriad insects. It is not unusual to see flower heads covered with native bees, honey bees, wasps, or butterflies. The plant is also beneficial to birds, which feed on the small oval seeds or “nutlets” that appear in autumn.

There are about 20 species of mountainmint in Georgia, and some of them can be difficult to tell apart. Southern mountainmint resembles both hoary mountainmint (P. incanum) and Loomis’ mountainmint (P. loomisii). Their foliage and flowers are similar, and they all have hairy leaf undersides and stems. However, it is possible to distinguish the species by their calices and fruits. Southern mountainmint’s longest calyx lobes are more than half as long as the calyx tube, (in P. incanum, they are less than half as long), and its nutlets are pitted (in P. loomisii, they are smooth).

Bumblebee and Butterfly

Native pollinators, including bumblebees and swallowtail butterflies, are attracted to fragrent southern mountainmint. Photos, including top image, by Ellen Honeycutt.

Mountainmints (Pycnanthemum ssp.) are in the Lamiaceae family, and have many characteristics in common with true mints: square stems, aromatic leaves, hardiness, drought tolerance, and a tendency to spread. They also have medicinal, culinary, or insect repellent properties, determined at least in part by the concentrations of key oils expressed within the leaves or shoots. Some mountainmint species closely resemble one another chemically; others do not. For example, southern mountainmint, hoary mountainmint and pilose mountainmint (P. pilosum) all contain high concentrations of the aromatic oils pulegone (insect repellent) and menthone (minty, medicinal), and moderate levels of limonene (citrusy) in the shoots and/or leaves. In contrast, Loomis’ mountainmint has limonene but very little pulegone or menthone [1]. Native Americans used mountainmint poultices to treat headaches and used teas for colds and fevers. Today, various herbal websites also recommend mountainmint teas as medicines. It should be noted, however, that herbs containing pulegone should not be ingested in large quantities because of toxicity concerns and should never be taken when pregnant.

Mountainmints were first discovered by botanist Henri Michaux in the Pennsylvania mountains, hence the name. However, southern mountainmint grows well in many terrains, and can tolerate most soil types, as long as it gets good drainage and at least partial sunlight. Its striking foliage and long bloom time make it a great garden plant, albeit an eager spreader. Its silvery beauty pairs strikingly with other species having dark foliage or colorful flowers. Cut it back in winter to encourage re-growth, and enjoy this beauty, with its busy insect entourage, all summer long.

[1] Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases: https://phytochem.nal.usda.gov/phytochem

Chapter News: Coastal Plain

Fall is a beautiful time of year – time to enjoy being outdoors without dripping in sweat, time for trees to break down chlorophyll and expose the vibrant colors of autumn, time to harvest seeds for next year's flowers, time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Members of the Coastal Plain Chapter have been indulging in all of these activities.

Below, Mary Alice Applegate describes the community project planting native plants at the Fulwood dog park in Tifton. This was a wonderful project coordinating with many other organizations. We look forward to following the plants as they become established and attract pollinators and people. The park is well used and we hope the garden and signage will provide effective educational outreach.

Fall colors have been vivid this year. In late November, I drove the state from south to north. At any time of year, this drive is interesting to see the transition of natural ecosystems from the coastal plain to the piedmont to the mountains. It is particularly interesting in spring and fall to see the effect of latitude on seasonal phenology of plants – time of flowering in spring and appearance of autumn colors in fall. The deciduous trees were just starting to show colors in south Georgia, while they were in full color in the piedmont and had already fallen in parts of the mountains.

Seed Collection

Patti Timper harvesting seeds at Gaskins for propagation, seed swap, and understory restoration.

Many of us have been celebrating the harvest season by collecting seeds from native plants in our backyards and local ecosystems. In my backyard, Patti Timper helped me collect seeds from a wide variety of native plants. We will use them for propagating seedlings for plant sales, for seed swaps, and for enriching our pollinator gardens and forest understory.  It is surprising to see how many plants are still flowering into the middle of December.

We had two big events in the fall quarter. Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium was held at Vincent Gardens in Douglas on October 5. We were delighted to have a group from the West Georgia chapter join us for the event, described in the October issue of this newsletter. The other main event was our annual meeting, held at Altama Plantation on November 16. We started with our business meeting. Ellen Honeycutt and Lori Conway came all the way from Atlanta to provide an update on the status of the GNPS Strategic Plan, including the restructuring of GNPS with creation of new chapters around the state. Mary Whitfield reported on selling land adjacent to Doerun Pitcherplant Bog to DNR to expand the Wildlife Management Area. This initiative was spearheaded by the late Tom Patrick.

W. Ga. at BBB Symposium

Flo Hayes brought a group from the West Georgia Chapter to join us for the Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium held at Vincent Gardens in Douglas.

We elected new officers with two-year terms. Heather Brasell is now President, Mary Alice Applegate is Vice President and Gail Farley is Past President. Other officers to continue in their roles are Amy Heidt as Secretary, Eamonn Leonard as Treasurer, Paul Sumner as Director of Communications, Ed McDowell as Director of Conservation, and Karan Rawlins as Director of Education.  

The focus of presentations was native plants as habitats for wildlife. Eamonn Leonard (DNR) described the many ways that native plants support birds, providing specific information on beneficial plant species. Joyce Klaus (J. M. Klaus Conservation Services) extended the discussion to describe how many other types of animals benefit from native plants. In the afternoon, Katherine Melcher (UGA) built on morning sessions to explain how to landscape the plants. Once we decide what we want to plant, landscaping considerations help us create beautiful gardens that are aesthetically pleasing for humans – an important category of wildlife. To tie all of this back to nature, Eamonn Leonard led a short walk around the property, showcasing his work in restoring the original formal garden using only native plants and understory restoration management in the adjacent pine forest.

During 2019, we have been writing articles in Southern Soil, a bi-monthly online publication. Heather Brasell, Karan Rawlins, Amy Heidt, Gail Farley, Beth Brant and Amy Carter have contributed articles on native plants that are good to include in your garden and that are beneficial to humans or other animals. You can see past articles at http://www.southernsoil.org/. We will be planning future articles for 2020.

Other ongoing projects include establishing pollinator gardens at Crooked River WMA (led by Gail Farley), Len Lastinger Elementary School in Tifton (led by Marilynn Marshall), and St. Marys Elementary School (led by Elizabeth King). Gail Farley is leading a project at Crooked River, working with the Friends of Crooked River State Park in St. Marys to convert about one acre of mowed meadow into a native wildflower and grass meadow typical of longleaf pine and saw palmettos. Amy Heidt and several other members of this chapter are coordinating the Certificate in Native Plants based in Tifton. We have planned all of the courses for 2020 and are now recruiting to find attendees. For more information, contact Sean Cameron at GA Botanic Gardens at cscamero@uga.edu or 706-542-6156. We hope you will join us for events in 2020.


CPC members Ellen Corrie (right) and Heather Brasell (center) spread pine bark mulch.

Pollinator Garden Installed at Tifton’s Dog Park

Tifton’s Fulwood Park and its new dog park area are now a habitat for butterflies, moths, and bees, as a result of a months-long partnership between Tifton-area members of the Coastal Plain Chapter, GNPS, and the City of Tifton. The pollinator garden, designed by Landscape Architect and UGA Associate Professor Katherine Melcher, was installed on November 2, 2019. Melcher, who is also a GNPS member, chose plants that bloom in three seasons and serve as hosts to several pollinator species, including the monarch butterfly.

The plant list included 27 different flowers, vines, shrubs, and grasses, including Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ (black-eyed susan), Monarda fistulosa (bee balm), Asclepias perenis (aquatic milkweed), Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle), Aristolochia tomentosa (pipevine), Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’ (inkberry), Aristida stricta (wiregrass), and Muhlenbergia capillaris (muhly grass).  The City of Tifton provided funds for the plants through a grant. In addition, some Rhododendron austrinum (Florida azaleas) were donated by Ernest Koone of Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Assisting CPC members were other volunteers representing Keep Tift Beautiful, the KTB Community Garden, the Tifton Tree Board, and UGA Tifton Campus students and faculty. Many of the volunteers will receive credit for volunteer hours needed to complete the State Botanical Garden’s Certificate in Native Plants program being offered through UGA Tifton Campus in 2019 - 2020. (https://botgarden.uga.edu/education/adult-programs/).

The garden will be registered with the State Botanical Garden’s “Connect to Protect” Program. (https://botgarden.uga.edu/conservation-science/connect-to-protect/) The program encourages public displays of native plants to educate about the role that these plants play in maintaining biodiversity in urban and suburban landscapes.


Plant Spotlight: Resurrection Fern

Altama WMA ferns

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) growing on an oak limb at Altama WMA.

A fitting plant to profile as we head into the new GNPS structure is resurrection fern: as you can see from its name, it is a plant known for rebirth. It is also an evergreen plant, and it is found statewide. These are all characteristics that I hope for GNPS in 2020!

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides, formerly Polypodium polypodioides) is a small native fern in the Polypodiaceae family. This fern is an epiphytic plant, which is a plant that might grow on another plant and is dependent on that plant for support but not for nutrition.  It is found statewide and is typically found on trees, fallen logs, stumps, ledges, and rocks.  It will also grow on some manmade structures.

In both North Georgia and South Georgia, I primarily see it growing on oak limbs. It will also grow on the limbs of certain other trees such as Southern magnolia and pecan. The plant takes its common name from its characteristic of appearing dead when moisture is sparse but springing back to ‘life’ when rehydrated.

Fern and Symposium Table

Left: Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) growing on a rock at Hard Labor Creek State Park. Right: Fern plants rescued from pecan trees downed by Hurricane Michael joined saw palmetto fronds to grace 2019 GNPS Symposium tables.

If nature doesn’t plant resurrection fern in your yard, you can get a start of the fibrous rhizome from a friend and press it into a nook or cranny with a little moist natural material to anchor it. If conditions are favorable, it will attach and spread. At last year’s symposium, Amy Heidt used fern-covered broken pecan limbs as table arrangements and they were available for purchase at the end of the day.

Chapter Formation Updates

Greetings and Happy New Year! Let’s all pledge to work together in a year of incredible transformation and growth for GNPS.  Members recently approved the adoption of new bylaws that established the formation of a state-level board of directors to pave the way to simplified chapter formation. When, where, and how will these new chapters form? For an update, read on, starting with a short history lesson.

GNPS formed in 1994 when a group of passionate native plant lovers in Atlanta joined hands in a mission to promote the use and conservation of native plants. Initial meetings were in members’ homes, eventually moving to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The Society grew. Members joined from farther outside metro Atlanta and even across the state. By the mid-2000s members in Carrollton had tired of the long drive to Atlanta for meetings, and the West Georgia Chapter was born. A few years later, the Coastal Plain chapter formed in South Georgia. Most recently, the Redbud Project, an existing non-profit organization in Gainesville, became the third chapter of GNPS.

Ellen Honeycutt and I recently attended the annual meeting of the Coastal Plain Chapter. As we heard each successive speaker rise and tell of their wonderful accomplishments in the past year, Ellen passed me a note that said, “This is why local chapters are so important.” I wholeheartedly agree. In effect, we want to create a GNPS army with members as foot soldiers and chapters as the platoons. More chapters will mean more convenient opportunities for native plant lovers to gather, recruit new members, and make a difference in the local communities right where they live. We’re delighted that many people have inquired how to start a chapter or have written to us saying they’d like to start a chapter in their area of Georgia.

2020 will be a transitional year for GNPS. During the 2020 transition year, we will redefine the existing chapter startup manual to simplify and streamline this process. In the meantime, we encourage people to simply gather for educational meetings, meet other like-minded people in their areas, plan local field trips and activities, get inspired, and just have fun. Think of it like dating before marriage! Forming strong friendships with people in your area will lay important groundwork for forming successful chapters in the coming months.

One thing is for sure — people prefer convenient meeting locations. During this year, we encourage people to search out good places to meet across the state — local nature preserves, community centers, educational centers — and begin to develop those partnerships. Or perhaps you know of a good local place to hike in your area to view native plants. Or a local native plant nursery to visit.

When you are ready to plan a local GNPS meeting or activity in your area, reach out to us if you need suggestions for speakers or would like the state board to help you connect with other GNPS members in your area. Once you have a date for your meeting or activity, we will publicize it via our News & Announcements, email and social channels. GNPS state board members will plan to be on hand at your local meeting to register new members, provide state board updates, assist you with running your meeting… whatever you may need.

A group of members in the north metro Atlanta area have already planned meetings with educational speakers in Alpharetta on January 23 , and in Dunwoody on March 29 (watch the events calendar for more information). The Atlanta Botanical Garden will remain a potential meeting spot in 2020 for any members who want to use that lovely location. We would love to see other small groups form to plan meetings in other areas around Atlanta or other areas of the state to help new chapters start quickly once we have guidance in place.

For more inspiration on starting up a local GNPS chapter, I encourage you to re-read Flo Hayes’s article from December’s NativeSCAPE about the West Georgia Chapter’s formation. Flo’s account describes the perfect example of all that passionate people can accomplish when they gather and work together collaboratively. Let GNPS help you connect with passionate people near you!

Save the Date!

The Spring Plant Sale will be held on April 18, 2020 in Marietta, at the usual McFarlane Nature Park location.


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

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