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May 2019 — Volume XXV, Number 5 — Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

Atlanta May Meeting

Discover the magic of mosses in today’s landscapes with Annie Martin, aka Mossin’ Annie, nationally recognized moss gardening expert and author of The Magical World of Moss Gardening. Moss is an extraordinary plant — it grows without roots, flowers, or stems. Despite being overlooked, in many ways, moss is perfect: it provides year-round color, excels in difficult climates, prevents soil erosion, and resists pests and disease. Your journey will include a visual tour of impressive moss garden photographs, hands-on moss ID samples, and valuable tips on how to succeed as a moss gardener and create stunning, eco-friendly spaces.

Moss Gardening

The meeting will be on May 14th at Day Hall in the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and we hope to see you there! Social hour begins at 6:30 p.m., and the presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. Carpoolers may receive a parking voucher. Native plants from the Stone Mountain Propagation Project will be for sale, as well as artwork from Linda Fraser. And of course, the meeting and presentation are free and open to the public.

Chapter News: Redbud

Native Plants for Wildlife Conservation

Redbud bees

Left: Eagle Scout James Hicks instructing Redbud volunteers Michele Buchanan and Mary Griffin in maintenance of the Native Bee Stations. Right: Dr. Bill Nye, Native Bee Authority Dee Scarpellino, and Eagle Scout James Hicks.

From his classrooms at Piedmont College, Associate Professor  Dr. William (Bill) Nye brought his passion for nature and wildlife as a means to put environmental sustainability in the hands and hearts of others when he spoke  to members of Redbud Chapter in April. He brings the outdoor experience to his classrooms and to the community, always striving to convey his philosophy for saving the environment. “I have a dream that communities will increase green spaces for wildlife with design and management of their local landscape. Native plants and wildlife are often untapped and forgotten community partners that  can support ecological sustainability,” Nye says.

His own journey into nature education began as an Eagle Scout and has led him to where he facilitates experimental education and research in science, technology, engineering and math as the Director of the Innovation and Discovery Center. Nye works with students in regional schools to introduce learning beyond the classroom, including a wading into the Chattahoochee River to mentor a student in his research on the habitat of a rare bass species.

Nye shared the month’s program with student James Hicks who conducted his Eagle Scout Project on native bees, mentored by “Redbud resident native bee authority” Dee Scarpellino. Hicks built and installed nesting boxes throughout Linwood Nature Preserve and enhanced their surrounding habitat with native plant seed bombs. To complete requirements for his Eagle Scout certification, Hicks coordinated his native bee project presentation with fellow Eagle Scout Bill Nye and published a Native Bee brochure to save native bees. His final step was to train Redbud Chapter volunteers to maintain the habitats he has created.

A Great Day for Birding

What a day and what a place to witness the beauty of nature with a focus on the many bird species that frequent the Linwood Nature Preserve, the 30-acre urban forest in the heart of Gainesville, Georgia on the shore of Lake Lanier. We start this journey of Redbud Chapter members at 8 a.m. from the trailhead at 415 Linwood Drive, with the bright sun touching the tree tops. Master Birder Peter Gordon, director of education at Elachee Nature Science Center, led the charge of about 18 colorful adventurers.

Redbud birding

Redbud birders make a find during the trip to Linwood Nature Preserve.

Several species are flitting through the large oak, hickory and pine trees that top the hill where we gather. American Robin, Red Eyed Vireo, Grosbeak, Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker, and Red-bellied Woodpecker make themselves known by sight and sound. As we travel down the leafy path, we must stop to listen and look up while Peter identifies and points in the direction of both new and familiar species like the Cardinal, American Crow, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, Fish Crow and Pileated Woodpecker. There is great excitement when several male Scarlet Tanagers chase each other through the high branches.

We move further down the hill into the power line prairie, which is a great space for margin and brush inhabitants. Overhead soars the Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture, and at the edge in the highest tree sits a Great Crested Flycatcher. Lower down we see Bluebirds, Towhee, Goldfinch, Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, and some Starlings crossing the sky. Sighting the  Yellow-breasted Chat was a treat as this bird is declining in eastern North America due to loss of habitat from deforestation and urban development. Four deer hover in the trees, observing us as we observe them.

The return trip skirts a spring-fed creek which runs into Lake Lanier — the perfect spot for “right on time” says Peter, the Louisiana Waterthrush, singing and patrolling his domain. The final great sighting of the trip was a tiny Black and White Warbler skipping on a high limb. It is the only member of the genus Mniotilta, which means “moss-plucking,” i.e., looking for insects. You can imagine there is much to see and hear in this rare old-growth forest, even though we saw or heard 28 species, we surely missed or did not record even more species in our two-hour walk through this rich complex of oak-hickory forest, wetlands and prairie ecosystems. But next time!

Plant Spotlight: Native Magnolias

Evergreen magnolias

The two native Georgia evergreen magnolias, left to right: southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) and sweetbay magnolia (M. virginiana).

May brings Magnolia flowers: waxy, white, fragrant blossoms that are an iconic symbol of Southern floral beauty. While the artistic depictions of magnolia flowers represent the Southern magnolia known botanically as Magnolia grandiflora, this species is not the only one in Georgia. We have two evergreen species and five deciduous ones to enjoy from one end of Georgia to the other - and most of these deserve more use in our landscapes. Did you know that magnolias are some of the first flowering plants to evolve? They are still pollinated by some of the earliest pollinators: beetles.

The two evergreen ones, Southern (Magnolia grandiflora) and sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana) are largely Coastal Plain residents. There is a variety of sweetbay that is naturally found in more northern areas (M. virginiana var. australis) and that is often the one propagated for sale. Both Southern magnolia, which has lots of cultivars now, and sweetbay are used extensively throughout Georgia now for their beauty, adaptability, and evergreen qualities. However, a word of caution: Southern magnolia has become a bit of a pest in Piedmont forests where birds have deposited its seeds. If you are driving around the Atlanta metro area and see Southern magnolia in the woodlands, it is not native there.

The five deciduous ones are considered ‘bigleaf’ type magnolias and include one mountain species, Fraser’s magnolia (M. fraseri), plus cucumber magnolia (M. acuminata), bigleaf magnolia (M. macrophylla), pyramid magnolia (M. pyramidata), and umbrella magnolia (M. tripetala). In addition, Ashe’s magnolia (M. ashei) is often sold in Georgia but is considered native to northern Florida.

Bigleaf Magnolia

The flower of a bigleaf magnolia (M. macrophylla) and its autumn leaf showing the distinguishing characteristic of an auriculate base.

All magnolias have the creamy white flowers, but one species is not fragrant. Umbrella magnolia flowers have a slightly funky odor. In my area, they bloom in late April and do not overlap the bloom time of their closest cousin, bigleaf magnolia. We find both of these species on GNPS rescues, most often in Cherokee County, and distinguish the two of them by the leaf base. Bigleaf magnolia has an auriculate base (shaped like an ear or a ‘B’), a trait that it shares with Fraser magnolia, pyramid magnolia, and Ashe’s magnolia. Umbrella magnolia has a cuneate base (wedge shaped or more like a ‘V’), a trait that it shares with cucumber magnolia.

The deciduous species are generally understory trees, enjoying morning sun but afternoon shade. Umbrella magnolias are naturally found in my Cherokee County neighborhood, so I’ve planted several of the bigleaf and umbrella magnolias adjacent to our swimming pool for a tropical effect. The 36-inch leaves of the bigleaf magnolia are stunning in the summer.  These uncommonly used trees are a wonderful way to add interest and diversity to your landscape.

Umbrella Magnolia

Flower and foliage of umbrella magnolia (M. tripetala).


Field Trip to Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail

In the northwest corner of Georgia, where sheltered valleys cut into rich, calcareous layers of rock, spring offers one of the most diverse and impressive wildflower displays in all of the state. Wave after wave of flowers bloom in succession, blanketing the hillsides with a shifting mosaic of colors and shapes from the end of February through late April. This field trip explored one such mesic (moist) calcareous cove, the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail, also known as the Pocket Loop Trail, in the Pigeon Mountain WMA.

The display didn’t disappoint! We saw the last few blooms of bloodroot, trout lilies, and Dutchman’s breeches (Sanguinaria canadensis, Erythronium americanum, & Dicentra cucullari), caught the peak of Virginia bluebells, celandine poppies, and decumbent trillium (Mertensia virginica, Stylophorum diphyllum, & Trillium decumbens), and got a glimpse of the coming waves of bent trillium, fern-leaf phacelia, and eastern red columbine (Trillium flexipes, Phacelia bipinnatifida, & Aquilegia candensis). Mixed amongst these were more species than I can list – including Latin names will consume the entire newsletter! Foamflower, miterwort, toothworts, rue-anemone, sharp-lobed liverwort, spring beauty, black cohosh, blue cohosh, wild geraniums, jack-in-the-pulpit, yellow mandarin, woodland phlox, bellworts, and at least five violet species were among the mix.

Bluebells, poppies, trillium, and miterwort

Left: The overview of Virginia bluebells and celandine poppies. Right: two-leaf miterwort in front of bent trillium (photo by Ann Litrel).

At the trail’s end, a waterfall cascades onto a rocky platform scattered with boulders that serve as a substrate for unique plants such as woodland stonecrop (Sedum ternatu), flatrock phacelia (Phacelia maculata), and walking fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum), a fern with fronds that occasionally stretch into elongated stolons that take root and start new clones several inches from the mother plant. Other ecologically interesting plants included those with deadly chemical defenses like doll’s eyes (Actaea pachypoda), parasitic species like wood betony and one-flowered broomrape (Padicularis canadensis, Orobanche uniflora), and the many spring flowers that recruit ants to plant their seeds in nutrient-rich trash piles by attaching a succulent elaiosome, or oil body, to each seed.

Parasitic plants and trillium

Left and center: two parasitic plants, wood betony and one-flowered broomrape. Right: decumbent trillium, an example of a plant with ant-assisted seed dispersal.

Among the fauna observed on the trip, amphibians and insects took center stage. Multiple salamanders were found under logs/stones and in the creek running alongside the trail, both in adult and gilled larval stages. None were identified to the species level, but the genera Plethodon (lungless woodland salamanders) and Eurycea (brook salamanders) were both observed. The son of one of our members also found a pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris) and brought it to shore for photos. Among the insects, we saw many swallowtail butterflies, a hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe), and braved the threat displays of a large predatory rove beetle (Ontholestes cingulatus). In the water along with the salamanders, we also found the aquatic larval and nymph stages of dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, midges, stoneflies, caddisflies, and a large, scary-looking hellgrammite, the larval form of a dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus).

Wildlife on trip

Top left: a hummingbird clearwing feeds from Virginia bluebells (photo by Ann Litrel). Bottom left: a gold-and-brown rove beetle. Right: members find salamanders among the rocks of the stream.

The trip, despite the last-minute planning, came together beautifully, and I look forward to exploring this exceptional habitat with more GNPS members in future years. I extend my thanks to those who were able to attend for joining me on the first field trip I’ve guided for the group.

Photos not credited in the captions were taken by Troy Alexander.

GNPS 2019 Spring Plant Sale and Festival

Bird and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees…

The spring plant sale was an unprecedented success. Records were broken, expectations were exceeded, and nearly 3,800 plants were sold across 476 transactions in only three hours. The sale was exceptional even before it started, with the longest ever line of customers waiting for the gates to be opened. “[There were] so many repeat customers,” observed member Lynn Almand. “[It was] easy to tell because of all the wagons and carts they brought.”

Filling the park with volunteers, customers, and children interacting over plants and educational displays, the event felt more like a plant festival than just a sale. Landscape architects Jack Weeks and Lillian Huffman answered questions and helped patrons make purchasing decisions. At various educational booths, Barbara Dorfman explained the importance of removing invasive plants, Leslie Inman attracted new supporters for pollinator-friendly plants, and Lillie Kline was there to promote the Audubon Society. All around, children were playing, people were photographing plant information cards, and, of course, people were buying plants.

Plant sale patrons

Left: The line of customers waiting to get in before the sale started. Right: The informational tables were popular with patrons (photo by Melanie Bass Pollard).

Volunteer Marcia Winchester recounted a new experience for her at our plant sales, saying “I’d be talking to a customer about a plant in their hand and we’d look down and all the rest had been sold”! Among many happy customers was a wildlife gardener thrilled to find a black cherry, who exclaimed “This is my first Prunus!”

Enabling these positive experiences were the volunteers. This year benefited from the largest number of plants ever donated to the sale by our volunteers and members in the weeks leading up to the sale. At the sale, volunteers did everything: schlepping plants, watering, pricing, interacting with patrons, cleaning up, and making and serving lunch. “The food is great and I love the recycling of utensils and sitting with other GNPS volunteers eating and catching up or making new friends,” said one volunteer. One of our newest volunteers, Kim Mallett, said, “This is my first time volunteering or even attending the GNPS sale. It was a great experience for me. I was glad to help out wherever I was directed and I learned so much. It has been a fun and valuable experience I look forward to future opportunities!” This year benefited from the largest number of plants ever donated to the sale by our volunteers and members.

The GNPS Plant Sales are our biggest fundraisers, allowing our organization to provide more education, outreach, restoration, rescues and propagation. Thank you all for your support.

Plant sale kids

Kids helped out their parents in addition to enyjoying the educational activities. Photos by Melanie Bass Pollard (left) and Marcia Winchester (right).

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

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