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October 2018 — Volume XXIV, Number 10 — Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

Nominate a plant or a person!

The time has arrived for Plant of the Year Nominations. See the article in last month's newsletter for requirements, and make your submission after 7:00 p.m. on October 1st.

We have also reached that time of the year when the Nominating Committee is finalizing the slate of candidates for the Board of Directors. If you are interested in a position, or have someone in mind that you think would be a good candidate, please drop us a note ASAP at info@gnps.org.

Chapter News: Coastal Plain

A huge shout-out and thank you to Eamonn Leonard, our chapter treasurer AND chairman of Coastal Wildscapes, for inviting our chapter to participate in the Coastal Wildscapes annual fall plant sale at Ashantilly Center in Darien, Georgia. This was an opportunity to both promote our chapter to a large number of native plant enthusiasts and also to sell many of our chapter-propagated native plants.  Plants for sale were spider lily (Hymenocallis occidentalis), hearts–a-bursting (Euonymus americanus), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium atlanticum), river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), Stokes aster (Stokesia laevis), winged sumac (Rhus copallinum), needle palm (Yucca filamentosa), and lizard tail (Sarurus cernuus).

Amy Heidt and Mary Alice Applegate traveled from Tifton to Darien, Georgia with a truckload of plants. Eamonn gave us a choice location next to entrance of Ashantilly Plantation. He also gave us some welcome shade!  When the gnats began to swarm, Eamonn offered us some special balm and spray custom formulated for gnats! 

Our new banner was hung for all to see. The banner includes our new logo, featuring the pine lily (Lilium catesbaei) that was painted by member Mary Alice Applegate.  I posted a new set of display boards that promote the benefits of chapter membership with the Georgia Native Plant Society and our several Coastal Plain activities. 

Our booth stayed busy all day.  We had many visitors from across the coastal plain and all wanted to learn more about our native plants.  Many of our educational brochures were handed out, several member applications went home, and we actually signed up one new member on the spot.  Perhaps our greatest ‘coup’ of the day was gathering a long list of names and emails of visitors interested in hearing about Chapter plant sales and activities.  We hope they’ll become new members in our growing Coastal Plain Chapter.

Broxton Falls

Waterfall at Broxton Rocks, destination of an upcoming field trip for the Coastal Plain Chapter.

Chapter Activity - “Bees, Butterflies and Beyond” Symposium IV - Saturday, October 6

This annual symposium held in October always has a fundamental focus on gardening for wildlife – especially bees and butterflies. In an age when local pollinators are struggling with loss of habitat and food sources, attendees go home with a better understanding of how to help our local wildlife.

Attendees also have a choice of three Dirty Hands Workshops: making wildflower seed bombs, collecting seeds for propagation, and a ‘walk about’ the garden to scout for wildlife. A chance to explore Vincent Gardens and purchase native plants is also on the agenda.

This symposium is an ideal opportunity for our chapter to focus on our core mission of education, conservation and preservation. Just as we did at the Coastal Wildscapes September 22 fall native plant sale in Darien, our chapter will present displays that tie in our chapter with the Georgia Native Plant Society and various chapter activities. Educational brochures that we offer help newcomers to find their way gardening for wildlife with native plants.

Our chapter hopes members from across the inner and outer coastal plain will make plans to attend this Symposium. Early birds can register for a Friday field trip to Broxton Rocks Preserve. The Nature Conservancy website speaks of "a rushing waterfall…30’ high cliffs…and green-fly orchids that adorn the rock walls." Please visit the Symposium web page for the agenda, profiles of presenters, and registration procedures.

Plant Spotlight: Native Asters

Like Helianthus, the subject of last month’s Plant Spotlight, our native asters are also members of the composite family, now called the Asteraceae family. Each aster ‘flower’ is really a flowerhead with tiny disk flowers in the center and showy ray flowers around the edges. Most asters have yellow disk flowers in the center and surrounding white, yellow, or blue/purple ray flowers, all of which produce small seeds. Our beloved Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), GNPS Plant of the Year in 2015, is unusual in that it has cream colored disk flowers that age to soft purple - a trait that helps to distinguish it from the similar looking late purple aster (S. patens).

What we commonly call asters are plants spread across a number of genera in North America. Most of the Georgia aster species are in the genus Symphyotrichum but can also be found in Ampelaster, Doellingeria, EurybiaOclemena, and Sericocarpus. If you’d like to read more about the 1994 change from Aster to these genera, please see this article.

White wood asters

The white aster group includes (left to right) the smooth oldfield aster (S. racemosum) and the calico aster (S. lateriflorum).

White asters include the well-known white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), a part-shade, part-evergreen groundcover, 3 species of both Doellingeria and Sericocarpus, two species of Oclemena, as well as the wide-spread roadside asters with numerous small flowers. These roadside asters are an abundant source of late season pollen and nectar for pollinators. They include species with charming and descriptive common names like hairy oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum), rice button aster (S. dumosum), smooth oldfield aster (S. racemosum), and white heath aster (S. ericoides). In the coastal plain, a couple of others include scaleleaf aster (S. adnatum ) and Walter’s aster (S. walteri). Another common white aster is calico aster (S. lateriflorum), known for the range of colors of the central disk flowers during the flowering period.

Three members of the blue and purple aster group (left to right): Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), heartleaf aster (S. cordifolium), and eastern silver aster (S. concolor).

Blue and purple asters are surprisingly abundant as well and include Eurybia species like showy aster (E. spectabilis), creeping aster (E. surculosa), and bigleaf aster (E. macrophylla). Symphyotrichum asters with leaves that clasp the stem include Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), late purple aster (S. patens), New England aster (S. novae-angliae), wavyleaf aster (S. undulatum), eastern silver aster (S. concolor), swamp aster (S. puniceum), and smooth blue aster (S. laeve). Others have leaves with non-clasping petioles and they include heartleaf aster (S. cordifolium), Short’s aster (S. shortii), and the coastal marsh aster (S. elliottii).

The goldenasters are another group altogether and were not part of the aster separation of 1994. They include Maryland goldenaster (Chrysopsis mariana), silkgrass (Pityopsis spp., 4 species), and the yellow-flowered camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris).

While I certainly haven’t covered all of the species in Georgia, I hope this gives you a good appreciation for the extensive diversity of the fall beauties that we call Aster. From the mountains to the marshes, in woodlands, fields, and ditches, look for them in wild places, on our plant rescues, and at fall plant sales. But the most important thing is to include them in your garden. Georgia’s pollinators will be very happy that you did, and songbirds get to feast on the seeds all winter.

Restoration Focus: Blue Heron Nature Preserve

Blue Heron Woodland site before restoration

Woodland site at Blue Heron before restoration (left) and some of the many volunteers who have contributed to restoration (right).

In 2015, the Blue Heron Nature Preserve took on management of a four-acre parcel of land in a residential North Buckhead neighborhood. To help with the restoration of this neglected property, Blue Heron partnered with the Georgia Native Plant Society by identifying two restoration sites, one being a woodland habitat completely overgrown with English Ivy and the other being a barren meadow space.

Blue Heron Woodland site after restoration

After restoration, the woodland site has abundant space for native understory plants to thrive.

Through years of volunteer help, plant rescue relocation, and plant donations from the GNPS Stone Mountain propagation facility, the two restoration sites are now in "maintenance mode" which means a bulk of the restoration work has been completed, it just needs seasonal attention to keep invasive plants at bay. Some natives that now call these sites home are: American holly, sparkleberry, hearts-a-bustin, blue mistflower, fleabane aster, goldenrod, boneset, cardinal flower, jewelweed, purple coneflower, swamp milkweed, beardtongue, lady fern, Christmas fern, spleenwort, among others.

We have continued challenges in these spaces with English ivy and porcelain berry. If you would like to volunteer at these GNPS restoration sites, please contact Brooke Vacovsky, the Project and Operations Manager at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, at brookev@bhnp.org or 404-946-6394 ext 2.

[Editor's note: Other GNPS restoration sites could use volunteers too. The complete list is here, and you can probably find one near you. Also watch for news about the possibility of a site at Decatur's former United Methodist Children's Home, now transforming into the recently named "Legacy Park."]

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

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