The Georgia Native Plant Society accomplished an impressive set of goals in the first half of our 25th year and we’re not slowing down. We’re hard at work on our strategic plan, which will drive our focus for next year and beyond. Stay tuned for updates on the plan which will pave the way for new chapters, expand partnerships, and strengthen our roots in conservation across the state.
GNPS has hosted many successful events this year including our Symposium which sold out well in advance, and featured nationally and internationally recognized speakers and local experts in state ecological conservation. The Symposium attracted attendees ranging from conservationists and botanists to landscape architecture students earning continuing education credits for their degrees by attending.
One of our largest fundraisers, our Spring Plant Sale and Educational Fest, was a huge success, thanks to the revitalization of our Stone Mountain Propagation Center. As our plant sales expand across the state, we will be focusing on programming for mainstream nurseries to distinguish native plants from the non-native – and invasives – that we so often see in our unmanaged spaces.
Across the state our chapters continue to educate and inspire their communities with events ranging from Native American medicinal native plant workshops, educational fieldtrips across the state, speaking events by Mossin’ Annie and the hugely popular Southern Highlands Preserve presentation, partnership with Xerces Society Beecatur Pollinator Festival and Film Screening of Hometown Habitats. Georgia has also initiated the Great Pollinator Census Program- first in the US. The count is on August 23rd and 24th. If you want to host a count in your area, contact us!
These efforts are broadening our outreach to the public and raising awareness that preserving habitats for wildlife and pollinators begins with native plants in our own landscapes and communities. Quite an accomplishment when you consider that it’s all done by volunteers donating their time and passion. We have many great opportunities to volunteer and make your impact. Lots of ways you can help and learn at the same time – Symposium, workshops, habitat certification and plant rescue facilitators, propagation, events, merchandise, and much more. We would welcome your special skills to help keep GNPS strong.
It has been a fantastic year and we’re only half way through. With new chapter interest in Macon, Augusta and Athens and our strategic plan update we can look forward to a thriving GNPS future. If you want to know more, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you soon at the next GNPS event!
Our July bimonthly meeting will be on a Thursday (July 13), not our usual Tuesday, giving GNPS members the opportunity to relax and enjoy a wonderful summer Atlanta Botanical Garden event: Cocktails in the Garden.
Day Hall doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with a brief member meeting at 7:00 to update you on GNPS activities upcoming in fall and new ways you can get involved with GNPS. After that, purchase the beverage of your choice and stroll through the gardens at your own pace while you enjoy the special exhibit of giant plant sculptures, explore the spectacular orchids in the greenhouses, and identify the native plants in Storza Woods. Do you have a friend who wants to join GNPS this month? Bring them along!
Chapter News: Coastal Plain
Coastal Plain members are contributing to a series of articles in the online magazine published by Southern Soil, an organization “founded to provide a platform for the local, sustainable food system in Southeast Georgia.” The most recent issue includes a story about purple passionflower, or maypop (Passiflora incarnata) by Karan Rawlins. Go straight to Karan's article or read the entire issue, which features women who are making their mark in the sustainable food industry. Earlier this year, Heather Brasell contributed an article on beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). And there will be more, including an upcoming article from Gail Farley: "Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto): Early Eocene to Present Day."
Pollinator Garden to “Bloom” at Matt Wilson Elementary
Students of Matt Wilson Elementary School will soon be noticing butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and other pollinators on the school campus. A new native plant garden has been installed with help from the Coastal Plain Chapter of the Georgia Native Plant Society and UGA Tifton Campus.
According to Principal Jason Clark and Penny Peters, the school’s gardening/art teacher, students helped plant the garden and will care for it while learning about the role of pollinators in Georgia’s agriculture. Tifton GNPS members Amy Heidt and Mary Alice Applegate helped design the garden and coordinated the project with the school.
The Coastal Plain Chapter of the Georgia Native Plant Society donated over 20 plant species, with many plants propagated by other members near Tifton, including Amy Heidt, Mary Alice Applegate, Heather Brasell, Ellen Corrie, Marilynne Marshall, and Bret Wagonhorst. Native plants were selected to serve as host plants for pollinators and provide blooms during three different seasons, following the guidelines of the UGA Botanical Garden’s “Connect to Protect (Biodiversity)” program.
Plants were delivered for the Matt Wilson Elementary School project in April by Mary Alice Applegate, Penny Peters, and Amy Heidt.
The pollinator garden is adjacent to the school’s vegetable garden, and both gardens are connected to the state-of-the-art Rachio irrigation system. The system was installed by UGA Tifton Campus professionals. Thanks to their efforts the students at Matt Wilson are learning to water the garden through the Rachio mobile app.
Additional donations added embellishments to the garden area — trellises were donated by Kunes Real Estate and Appraisals; and a hand-decorated bird house was donated by Clem Trepanier.
Conservation Field Work at Gaskins Forest Education Center
I’ve been asked to write some articles for NativeSCAPE on conservation from the perspective of a field practitioner. I grow trees, but I consider myself a forest steward rather than a timber producer. I also contribute to environmental education. My comments will derive from my experiences managing land in the Coastal Plain, where the only “natural” communities are restricted to your average moderately disturbed mixed pine hardwood stands in poorly drained parts of the property, unsuitable for past agriculture. You may not agree with my comments. You are welcome to respond with an article from your own perspective.
Conservation on Rights of Way
In the past I have had very mixed feelings about management of rights-of-way. Here are some of the good, bad, and ugly.
A few years ago, before thinning a stand of pine trees, my forester flagged gopher tortoise burrows and painted big circles around each of them to make sure the loggers kept away. The following week, roadside contractors mowed right over them – big tire marks right over the entrance of one. Last year, they mowed fence rows with hedgerows of beautyberries and other native plants providing cover and food for wildlife, at the same time opening the view and access for roadside poachers. This year, more than ever, I’m trying to control several invasive plant species that spread along roadsides during mowing and then invaded my property. I’m sure you all could add to this list with anecdotes of indiscriminate mowing and herbicide.
On the other hand, thank goodness for contractors who keep the rights-of-way open and prevent encroachment of woody plants. Many shade-intolerant wetland species like pitcher plants have survived in bogs along rights-of-way because of the mowing and herbicide. In the woods next door, they have been shaded out by trees and shrubs. The same applies to gopher tortoises, who need open sandy soil habitats. You see their burrows clustered along powerlines and roadsides and not in the adjacent wooded communities.
This year’s South Georgia Native Plants and Wildflowers Symposium in Tifton featured speakers from Department of Transportation (DOT) and Georgia Power, presenting new efforts to implement management practices based on conservation principles and good stewardship of natural communities. It was refreshing to hear about DOT plans to identify special habitats, reduce the amount of mowing and to avoid mowing at times that are ecologically sensitive for native plants. However, ever skeptical, I wondered if or when I’d see those practices in my back yard.
Left to right: Stakes and flagging mark gopher tortoise burrows, Slope area marked with "Wetland Boundary" flags, Edges of drains marked with "Streamside Management" flagging
Last week, I was indeed thrilled to see those practices being implemented in a powerline right-of-way on my property. Herbicide application was limited to spot spraying of woody plants. They had stakes with flagging for many of the gopher tortoise burrows. (I’ll flag some more to help them.) They had flagged “Streamside Management Zones” along two ephemeral drains. They had flagged another rectangular area on the slope above as “Wetland Boundary.” I am delighted to see the recognition of conservation needs and the implementation of good management practices. I’m looking forward to collaborating with them.
Plant Spotlight: Annual Rose-Pink
While many folks speed past roadside plants, some of us like to take a look at what’s going on there. Certainly, this is a phrase my husband would rather not hear: “Oh, what was that blooming? Can we go back and see?” My friend and fellow GNPS member Marcia Winchester has a remarkable talent for vehicle botanizing; we like to joke that she can correctly identify many things at 55 mph. But some plants are best noticed during a walk, and that’s exactly how I first noticed the annual rose-pink known as Sabatia angularis.
Annual rose-pink (Sabatia angularis) can show various shades of pink, and sometimes also be white.
Some people may be surprised to realize that we have beautiful native plants that are annuals. The roadsides around my neighborhood have introduced me to several besides the rose-pink: forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) and slenderleaf false foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia) are two others that I look for in summer. All like relatively open areas that aren’t overgrown, often thriving in rocky areas with poor soil.
Rose-pink belongs to a genus of annuals, biennials, and perennials in the Gentianaceae family, most of which are referred to as rose-gentian. According to USDA records, we actually have 13 species of Sabatia in Georgia, many of which are in the Coastal Plain. This particular species, Sabatia angularis, has the widest distribution of them all, and I find that July is the time to look out for it. The soft-pink flowers can be as pale as white or as deep as rose. The flowers are usually borne at the top of the plant, creating almost a bouquet effect when several are open at once. The glossy leaves are arranged in pairs, their bases held very close to the stem. Seed capsules form when the flower is done, thanks to pollination by bees.
Last year I had a good crop of plants in my yard from seeds I’d scattered. It appears that I’ll have none this year but perhaps last year’s seeds will sprout next year. I gather my seeds with permission from friendly neighbors but you can sometimes buy them online. In the meantime, I guess I’d better put on my walking shoes and admire the roadside ones. Maybe I’ll find something else new along the way.
Plant Spotlight News! Over a year of the Plant Spotlight features are now available on the GNPS web site. New articles will follow, and Plant Spotlight will soon be found alongside other regular blogs. Watch for updates.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve
Leslie Edwards shares information about the flora near a group of bigleaf magnolias (Magnolia macrophylla).
We had a delightful late-spring walk in the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve in southwest Atlanta. It is hard to believe you are in the city when visiting this preserve, which has the lush vegetation characteristic of mesic (moist) and bottomland forests. Thanks to the efforts of many groups, including Atlanta Audubon, most areas were relatively free of non-native invasive species, showing how hard work can make diverse, healthy urban forests possible. An abundance of big-leaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) grew under large, old white oaks (Quercus alba), northern red oaks (Quercus rubra) and American beeches (Fagus grandifolia). The forest was many layered - a rarity in metro forests – with pawpaw (Asimina triloba), sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus), wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), and buckeye (apparently Aesculus pavia) in the shrub layer, and nodding trillium (Trillium rugelii), five-leaved jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema quinatum), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), and Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum) in the herbaceous layer.
The knowledgeable birders on the trip were Morgan Schroeder, Abby Back, and Wes Hatch.
Three birding experts from Atlanta Audubon accompanied us, identifying the birds we were hearing and seeing. Hooded warblers, a northern parula, and Acadian flycatchers called out near the stream; a wood thrush, red-eyed vireos, and a yellow-throated vireo sang in the mesic forest; and a summer tanager, a brown-headed nuthatch, a pine warbler, and a blue-gray gnatcatcher foraged in small patches of pines and oak-pine-hickory forest. Being able to connect natural communities, native plants, insects and birds together created a rich and rewarding experience for all of us.
For more information, read Charles Seabrook’s article about our walk in the AJC! [Editor’s Note: One correction to the article is that “combined Georgia Botanical Society and Atlanta Audubon field trip” should be “field trip organized by the Georgia Botanical Society, the Georgia Native Plant Society, and Atlanta Audubon.”]
As a concerned conservation-oriented member of GNPS, you can help to preserve Cascade Springs. Southern Conservation Trust is hoping to work with the City of Atlanta to put it under conservation easement. Cascade Springs is a uniquely old growth and intact forest within the city limits and the Trust wants to ensure that we can help preserve this resource, for both the community and for our native flora and fauna, as development continues to threaten habitat on the west side. The goal of the easement would not be to limit the city from adding improvements like trails or bathrooms to the property, but rather to protect the property and the habitat it provides in perpetuity for generations to come. Watch for specific details about how you can voice your support.
Night Song Native Plant Nursery Visit and Educational Walk
A lovely waterfall and many native plants, both wild and cultivated, awaited participants of this visit.
In spite of rainy weather, many intrepid GNPS members traveled to Night Song Native Plant Nursery in Canton. Here, they were able to purchase native plants and then wander through several natural communities in a beautiful setting to view plants in their “right place” and learn more about their ecology.
The first stop was a fairly moist sunny meadow and forest edge. The orange flowers of butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) brightened up the meadow while bearsfoot (Smallanthus uvedalius) and Carolina phlox (Phlox carolina) bloomed along the forest edge. Further downslope, the sunny meadow was very moist, and hosted stands of giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) not yet in bloom. Small elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) were scattered among the ironweed, and a huge patch of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) grew nearby. We talked about the many insects and birds that feed from the fruits, berries, and nectar of these plants, and how meadow dynamics can change as plants spread.
We then moved into a forest that graded between mesic (moist, but not saturated) and bottomland (sometimes saturated or flooded) soils. Umbrella magnolias (Magnolia tripetala) and pawpaws (Asimina triloba) added a lush, almost tropical feel to this area. We discussed their large leaves as adaptations to this moist, shady area, and their fascinating pollinator-plant relationships, and marveled over a nearly perfect circle of black walnuts that grew close by. Painted buckeyes (Aesculus sylvatica), basswood (Tilia americana), red mulberry (Morus rubra), common silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), and northern red oak (Quercus rubra) provided classic mesic forest canopy shrub layers, while the white flowering spires of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) glowed in the herbaceous layer. Foamflowers (Tiarella wherryi) and flowering hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) in bloom were sprinkled along the rocky streambank.
And then, back to continue buying more plants at the nursery! It was perfect to enjoy viewing native plants in their habitat and to then be able to purchase plants right away, to help bring that nature to our own backyards. Night Song Native Plant Nursery has several events planned this year. Keep up with them at https://www.nightsongnatives.com/
Katy Ross welcomed visitors to her nursery and co-led the walk with Leslie Edwards, here near a large stand of pawpaws (Asimina triloba) by the creek.
Atlanta Area Fall Plant Sale
Save the date! The Atlanta Area Fall Plant Sale and Educational Festival will be Saturday, September 14, at our Stone Mountain Propagation Project (SMPP) in Stone Mountain Park. The sale will include our usual wonderful inventory of SMPP-propagated plants, donations from members and plant rescues, supplemented with purchases from reputable native plant nurseries, including Lazy K Nursery’s famous native azaleas, to round out the selections.
For the educational facet of the event, we will again host the Landscape Advice Tent, headed up by retired landscape architect and GNPS volunteer, Jack Weeks. With great enthusiasm, Jack has embraced the opportunity to help sale customers explore ways to incorporate their native plant purchases into their home gardens, and GNPS is grateful for his willingness to share his expertise. Barbara Dorfman, a founding volunteer at SMPP, again will host the Invasive Plant Tent. Barbara also has enjoyed sharing her knowledge about conquering invasive plants, something we all know can be quite the mystery to home gardeners. Other educational tents are in the works and will be announced soon.
Helen McGregor with SuperSod will join us to take orders for discounted bags of their Black Garden Soil. Customers on the sale date can also enter a Giveaway Contest to win a free Big Yellow Bag!
I’d like to thank and gratefully acknowledge Rona Cook, Steve Cook, Shannon Maher and Karen McKernan who’ve agreed to help me organize and host the sale. The volunteer signup will be open for business soon, and you won’t want to miss it. We’ve got exciting plans to make volunteering at the sale even more fun and educational than ever.
Questions, suggestions or want to help with the fall sale or educational festival? E-mail me at email@example.com.
Apologies to West Georgia: Due to circumstances beyond our control, we must hold the Atlanta-area fall plant sale the same date as the West Georgia Chapter’s fall workshop and plant sale. We hope to work with Stone Mountain to avoid future conflicts with these two signature GNPS events. We know many members love to attend both!
Donating Plants for the Fall Plant Sale
Summer is a time when most of us are weeding and thinning our more exuberant native plants. Please consider donating your extra native plants to the Stone Mountain Propagation Project (SMPP). Ideally, donated plants should be dug and potted by mid-August, about a month before the Atlanta area fall sale. This allows them to acclimate and look their best for the sale, so start digging now!
Plant donations can be brought to the SMPP site at Stone Mountain Park. Bring your plants in pots, tubs, or plastic bags. Check the GNPS calendar and come to a propagation workday to help transplant the donations into proper sized pots. If you cannot stay to work, feel free to pick up some pots and the potting mix we prefer, to take home and use for donations.
Native soil is fine, but heavy clay should be modified with a pine bark soil conditioner. An inexpensive potting medium can be prepared by mixing equal amounts of compost with pine bark soil conditioner (Lowe’s and Home Depot both sell a perfect, inexpensive “soil conditioner”). Perlite may also be added for extra drainage. We are looking for a well-drained medium.
The following plants are especially needed for the sale, but many others are welcome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific plants to donate.
Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Joe Pye weed (any native species)
Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata)
Ironweed (V. noveboracensis)
Penstemon (any native species, except P. smallii)
Mouse-ear coreopsis (Coreopis auriculata)
White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata)
Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)
Passion vine (Passiflora incarnata)
Green and gold (Chrysogonum viginianum)
Skullcap (Scutallaria incana)
Turtlehead (Chelone spp.)
Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida, R. subtomentosa)
Thank you for donating! Happy Digging!
Auction of Maureen Donohue's Books
Dear GNPS Friends,
As most of you know, Maureen Donohue passed away in February of this year, leaving a legacy of commitment to plant conservation and native plant gardening. She also bequeathed her extensive botany and natural history library to the Georgia Botanical Society, asking that we auction the books and dedicate the proceeds to Bot Soc’s conservation program. I am so grateful that the GNPS Board is sharing the auction with all of you. There are so many good books on this list – some you may already have and many that will be new or surprising too. Some of these are rare and out-of-print and many are the latest word on southeastern plants. They are organized by category: field guide, gardening, etc. I hope you find something you like! If you’d like to bid, send me an email at LCHAFIN@UGA.EDU, with the title and the amount of your bid. The minimum bid is included on the list–of course, you are welcome to exceed the minimum! All bids must be in increments of $5.00. I will track your bid and if someone outbids you, I’ll email you right away so you can raise your bid or bow out. The deadline for bids is July 25. Thanks for participating – you are contributing to a good cause and helping Bot Soc to honor Maureen’s bequest.
List of books - click here.