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October 2019 — Volume XXV, Number 10 — Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

President's Message

The close of our year reinforces the importance of our mission to educate and conserve our native plant communities, which are better equipped to handle the environmental crises unfolding. We’re strengthening our organization through our strategic plan, new bylaws and restructuring. We must increase awareness of the native plant protein link to our food web across all ages to equip new minds to ensure the future of GNPS.

The Strategic Planning Task Force presented their plan earlier this month inviting all members to provide feedback. If you have not submitted your member survey, please do. We will continue to review your survey input and interest in the Atlanta chapter, fine-tune our bylaws, and build the structure necessary to transition quickly to new chapter formations. The final plan will be presented at our November 12th business meeting.

Our first new Chapter Interest meeting will be at the Columbia County Library March 5th for the Augusta / CSRA (Central Savannah River Area). This new chapter will be ideally suited to work with conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy to help preserve unique ecological sites in the area, such as Heggie’s Rock in Appling. Malcolm Hodges, Ecologist for the Nature Conservancy, recently led 22 citizen-scientists to learn about drought effects and share knowledge about many species of native plants, lichen, quillwort (Isoetes tegetiformans), and fungi. Also present was Lynn Pollard whose family transferred the property to the Nature Conservancy in 1983 to protect it as a nature preserve.

We also have new chapter interest in Athens and multiple Atlanta areas. Please share this news with your friends, coworkers, and families to help grow and strengthen our chapters. Inquiries for the Augusta Chapter can write to: [email protected]. Inquires for the Atlanta area chapters can write to: [email protected].

It’s an exciting time to be a part of GNPS. If you’re interested in getting more involved with our ecological efforts, please write to us. We want to hear from you!
Member survey Link: https://gnps.z2systems.com/survey.jsp?surveyId=5&

 Save Our Pollinators Native Plant Sale and Event


Center: Mick Sims (left) with Ben Cantrell and Karen Smith. Left and right: Pollinator kit available for sale at the event.

Hot on the heels of the Great Georgia Pollinator Census, the Effingham County Master Gardeners hosted a Save Our Pollinators Native Plant Sale and Event September 14 in Rincon, Georgia (about 18 miles NW of Savannah). Featured presentations included Function of Pollinators in the Environment by Keren Giovengo, Plant Propagation Techniques by Bodie Pennisi, and Pollinator Habitats by Mick Sims.

The plant vendors, whom I have known for several years, were Southern Native Plantings, Thompsons Garden Retail, and Naturescapes of Beaufort. The most popular item was a native plant pollinator kit.   To everyone’s surprise and delight (except for those who couldn’t buy one) all 55 kits sold out.  They’re already puzzling over how many kits to grow for next year’s event.

The ‘Save Our Pollinators’ native plant kit consisted of 30 plants (3 each of 10 plants) and cost $75 pre-sale or $85 at the door. Native plants sold in the kit were Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot), Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem), Solidago odora (sweet goldenrod), Oenothera lindheimeri (Lindheimer’s beeblossom), Coreopsis lanceolata (lance-leaved coreopsis) or C. verticillata (whorled tickseed), Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan), Asclepias incarnata (butterfly weed), Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower), Calamagrostis acutiflora "Karl Foerster" (feather reed grass), and Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower).

Mick and Rose Sims, who graduated as Georgia Master Gardeners in 2017, brought the idea of pollinator garden starter kits with them when they relocated from Davenport, Iowa to Rincon over two years ago.  Mick explained how they became native plant advocates:

Rose received her Master Gardener training in Rock Island County, Illinois, just across the river from Davenport, Iowa. During the spring Master Gardener plant sale, she brought home the native plant kit and I had to remove my beautiful turf to accommodate it.  After only a couple of years, it was so beautiful that our whole neighborhood loved it.  That was the true start of our Native Plant Advocacy about 10 years ago.

We are fans of God’s creation and the great beauty that it brings.  This Native Plant Sale & Event was the next step in moving forward following our work with the City of Rincon in building a Native Plant Habitat at the city’s Lost Plantation Golf Club.

Pollinator Garden in Rincon

Pollinator Garden and signage at Lost Plantation Golf Club in Rincon.

Located on an edge of the golf club, 400 Willowpeg Way in Rincon, Georgia, the native plant pollinator garden is an 18’ x 12’ oval with easy access for the public, water for irrigation, well-drained soil and full sun.  “Native Pollinator Habitat” brochures are available on site along with an information kiosk. 

Thanks to a grant from Coastal Wildscapes, a well-respected local conservation organization, Mick and Rose Sims went to work creating the September 14 event.  They contacted owner/grower Karen Smith of Southern Native Plantings, who offered plant advice and also grew the plants.  The Sims consulted with Keren Giovengo, program manager of EcoScapes for the University of Georgia Marine Extension in Brunswick, GA and master gardener instructor.  Ben Cantrell, Effingham County Extension Agent, rounded out the team.  Mick Sims gives a special ‘shout out’ to senior MG Elizabeth Lewis and MGs with Coastal Master Gardener Association for all their help and support.

Mick Sims says “friendships and contacts have grown in upper coastal Georgia.  As friendships, contacts and native plants spread across this part of Georgia’s coast, there’s growing hope that we can 'Save Our Pollinators'.”

Plant Spotlight: Goldenrod

Rudbeckia Laciniata

Left: Blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) is an option for partly shaded gardens. Center: Monarchs enjoy the nectar of goldenrods, including this downy goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris). Right: Gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) is a great plant to have after dry late summers like Georgia has experienced this year.

One of my personal education missions each fall is to help people learn that goldenrods are a) not the source of fall allergies and b) are essential fuel for late season pollinators like bees and butterflies (including migrating Monarch butterflies).

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are perennial plants in the Asteraceae family that bloom in the fall. Numerous tiny yellow flowers are arranged on equally tiny flowerheads, offering a rich buffet of pollen and nectar to pollinators. The bright colors of their ray flowers are specifically designed to attract pollinators, proof that these plants rely on insects to move their pollen, not the wind. (Note: Plants that distribute their pollen via wind don’t have bright petals because they don’t need to attract insects; ragweed (Ambrosia sp.) flowers are barely noticeable for this reason.)

Even people who know that goldenrod is not a source of pollen-induced allergy symptoms are still hesitant to add it to the garden. The rambunctious tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) on the side of the road and in fields looks aggressive, yet most of the other species are well-behaved and perfectly wonderful in residential and designed landscapes. Here are a few of the species that I like to recommend and which can be found in fall native plant sales:

Solidago arguta

Atlantic goldenrod

Early bloomer, tall

Solidago caesia

Blue-stem goldenrod

Late bloomer, shade tolerant

Solidago erecta

Showy goldenrod

Drought tolerant, nice foliage

Solidago nemoralis

Gray goldenrod

Drought tolerant, nice form

Solidago odora

Anise-scented goldenrod

Early bloomer, tall

Solidago petiolaris

Downy goldenrod

Late bloomer, tall, larger flowers

Solidago rugosa

Wrinkle-leaf goldenrod

Often sold as ‘Fireworks’

Solidago sempervirens

Seaside goldenrod

Coastal species

Solidago speciosa

Showy goldenrod

Tall with numerous flowers

Solidago sphacelata

Autumn goldenrod

Groundcover foliage, often sold as ‘Golden Fleece’

In addition, look for plants that were separated out from Solidago several years ago but which still have great flowers for pollinators: goldentop (Euthamia spp.) and stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum).

So check out these plants the next time you’re shopping for pollinator-friendly plants and things for your fall garden. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did when you see how the pollinators flock to them. I dream of a day when people who support Monarch butterflies eagerly seek out goldenrod for their gardens the same way they seek out milkweed (Asclepias spp.).

Chapter News: Coastal Plain

Left: Eamonn Leonard and members touring grounds of Altama Plantation from previous meeting. Right: 2019 grounds tour of Altama Plantation will include the formal gardens that are being converted to a pollinator garden.  (This photo was taken November 2017.)

Coastal Plain Chapter Announces Annual Fall Business Meeting 2019

All Coastal Plain Chapter members are invited to attend the Chapter’s annual fall business meeting 2019.  An official flyer will soon be released.  Here are some details in advance:

  • Theme:  Native Plant HABITATS
  • Date & Time: Saturday, November 16, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Location: Altama Plantation WMA, 6844 GA Hwy 99, Brunswick, GA 31525
  • Registration fee: $15 — includes morning coffee & snacks, deli & salad platter for lunch (official flyer will have link to register on Eventbrite)

There will be a native plant seed swap starting at 8:30 a.m., so please bring seeds to share.  At 9 a.m. there will be a short business meeting (about an hour) that includes election of officers.  The program portion of meeting features:

  • Eamonn Leonard, Natural Resources Biologist, Georgia DNR Wildlife Conservation Section,  Using Native Plants to Support Birds
  • Joyce Klaus, J.M Klaus Conservation Services, Using Native Plants to Support Wildlife
  • Katherine Melcher, UGA, Garden Design with Coastal Plain Native Plants
  • One hour ‘walk-about’ the grounds of Altama Plantation
  • Contact:  Gail Farley, President CPC-GNPS, [email protected] or Heather Brasell, President-elect, [email protected]

Remember to bring native plant seeds to swap!

Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium

On Saturday, October 5th, 2019, the Coastal Plain Chapter is hosting the 6th Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium, with the theme Designing a Pollinator Habitat with Native Plants. The event is from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will be held at Under The Ten Oaks at Vincent Gardens, 1960 E. Baker Hwy. in Douglas, Georgia.

Highlights of the symposium include

  • Landscape Planning Workshop by Andrea Greco — professional landscape architect and featured speaker at the 2019 GNPS Symposium
  • Pollinator Plant Planning Workshop by Susan Meyers — educator, master gardener, master naturalist, and monarch butterfly enthusiast
  • Garden Walkabout Tour
  • Huge Native Plant Sale
  • Visit to Broxton Rocks, TNC Conservation Property on Friday before the symposium

The event flyer is here. Click it to get all the details, and we'll see you there!

Respecting Saw Palmetto

Continuing a series of articles in the online magazine published by Southern Soil, Coastal Plain member Gail Farley has contributed an article on saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). As noted in the summary page for this third issue of 2019:

“Throughout the year, we enjoy the constant stream of wildlife – birds, pollinators, butterflies, insects, rabbits, snakes, and armadillos that find cover, food and nesting habitat within the protective and nurturing bastion that is Serenoa repens. Saw palmetto is a native plant worthy of respect. Its wildlife and human value in habitats where it occurs should never be taken for granted.”

Go straight to Gail's article, or read the entire issue, which focuses on the meaning of agritourism and why it matters to Georgia. And if you missed the earlier articles by Heather Brasell and Karan Rawlins, see the July 2019 NativeSCAPE at gnps.org. The Southern Soil articles are featured within the Coastal Plain Chapter News of that issue.

Plant Rescue in Coastal Plain

On September 23, we had a pop-up plant rescue at Gaskins Forest Education Center in Alapaha. Heather Brasell had found a lot of small passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) growing in a firebreak that was due for disking, an operation that tills all vegetation into the soil to prevent the spread of fire. Amy Heidt and Mary Alice Applegate joined her in transplanting about 150 plants into pots. The plants will be used to establish plantings for future propagation, planting in local community projects, and selling at future plant sales. 

Right: Amy Heidt and Mary Alice Applegate rescuing passionflower plants from a firebreak. Photo by Heather Brasell.


Pollinator Census in Alapaha

GNPS was co-host for one of the Great Georgia Pollinator Census citizen science events held at Gaskins Forest Education Center in Alapaha. The event was organized by Erin Cork, wildlife biologist for Quail Forever. Other co-hosts were Berrien County UGA Extension and NRCS. Members of the Coastal Plain Chapter — Amy Heidt, Mary Alice Applegate, and Ellen Corrie — attended both days, participating in the data collection as well as providing visitors with information and seeds of several native plants. Mary Beth Cary, from Monarchs Across Georgia, brought monarch butterflies at several stages of their life cycle. Katie O’Shields, biologist for GA Department of Natural Resources, did face paintings for children. Other activities included making native bee nests, making bees from chenille sticks, and coloring butterfly templates.

Alapaha Pollinator Count

Left: Monarch caterpillars and chrysalides were provided for viewing by Monarchs Across Georgia. Center: Karla Gaskins observes as Erin Cork photographs a subject. Right: Participants could make native bee nests and contribute to future pollinator populations. Photos by Heather Brasell.

During the data collection, we saw an amazing diversity of insect pollinators as well as insect-insect and insect-plant interactions. Participants agreed that they had never observed a single plant for fifteen minutes and that they had learned a lot from the observations. Patti Timper pointed out a really well camouflaged looper (Synchlora caterpillar) eating mountain mint. Erin Cork got a photo of an assassin bug eating prey. Ellen Corrie saw a dragonfly catch and eat a wasp. Several pipevine swallowtail caterpillars were feeding on a pipevine plant. I even had a hummingbird feeding on obedient plant while I was observing. We would not have seen these things if we had not been there observing closely. It was fascinating to see how the petals on the bee balm fit so exactly over the heads of the large bees that came to collect nectar, how the small flowers of the red salvia attracted only tiny insects that could get inside the tubular flowers, and how the suite of pollinators on a single plant varied depending on sun and time of day.

After collecting data, there was a wealth of discussion about what people had seen, what they should plant in their gardens, where to get plants, and how to manage plantings. It was really good to have some people both knowing a lot about insects and others who knew a lot about plants so we could all learn from each other. Participants left the event enthusiastic to do more and learn more.

Alapaha Pollinator Count

Some of the pollinators observed included a beetle on Gallardia, a milkweed bug on Asclepias incarnata,and a bumblebee on Monarda. Photos by Heather Brasell.

It was very good to have the event on both Friday and Saturday. Friday was most convenient for adults, including some who could participate as part of their professional responsibilities. Saturday was best for children and college students, and for community outreach in general. The children, grades 4-6, were excited to participate and thoroughly enjoyed being part of citizen science. They took their responsibilities very seriously, even if they missed a lot of insects. College students could count this event as part of required community service.

Ten people participated on Friday and 15 on Saturday. We recruited one new member for GNPS. Based on feedback from participants as well as my own experiences, this was highly successful as an educational outreach event, although I would hate to be the statistician trying to make sense of the data. We all look forward eagerly to the second annual Pollinator Census next year.

Atlanta Area Fall Plant Sale Success

Coral honeysuckle

The 2019 Atlanta fall plant sale and educational festival is history, and we thank all who planned, organized and volunteered at the sale. Over 75 different members volunteered over the two days, plus we hosted over 350 visitors and customers.  Our educational festival was bigger than ever this year. We were joined by Susan Meyers with Monarchs Across Georgia, Brooke Vacovsky representing Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Atlanta Audubon, and The Amphibian Foundation along with returning EdFest contributor Leslie Inman Nelson of Pollinator-Friendly Yards. Jack Weeks and Elaine Nash offered advice on landscaping with natives, and Kate Carson with ReForest ATL joined Barbara Dorfman to offer advice on removing invasive plants. We sold almost 50% more plants than in the 2018 Fall Sale, many of which were grown by our Stone Mountain Propagation Project volunteers, lead this year by Karen McCaustland, Elaine Nash and Matt Shaw. Larry Spencer at Plant Life Nursery in Rome, Georgia, generously donated some of his beautiful plants. Linda Fraser kindly donated one of her lovely botanical prints as a volunteer grand prize appreciation gift. Thank you to everyone who made it a fun, rewarding event!

GNPS Plant of the Year Nominations Open Tuesday, October 1, at 7 p.m.

Coral honeysuckle

GNPS 2019 Plant of the Year, Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Photo by Ellen Honeycutt.

The GNPS Plant of the Year (POY) program recognizes native plants that are of benefit to Georgia’s ecology and wildlife. If you are a GNPS member and have a native plant that you think is wonderful, why not nominate it for our POY 2020? Besides beauty, some characteristics to consider are adaptability, seasonal interest, fragrance, wildlife sustainment, and ease of propagation. Only current GNPS members can nominate, so make sure your membership is up to date! You can check your membership status by logging in to gnps.org, going to the Membership Portal, and selecting “Manage Membership”, then “Renew or View Membership” from the menu on the right.

POY 2020 nominations will open at 7 p.m. sharp on October 1, 2019, and continue until six (6) acceptable submissions have been received. Please DO NOT submit before nominations open, as premature submissions will not be accepted. Submissions must include both the common and Latin names for the nominee, as well a reason why it would make a great GNPS Plant of the Year. A sentence will suffice, but feel free to elaborate as much as you’d like. We welcome information, especially regarding ecological significance or benefits to wildlife. Photos are encouraged, but not required.

Send nominations to: [email protected]

Submissions will be confirmed shortly after receipt, so if you don’t get a reply in a few minutes, please try again immediately. Members will be notified by email when submissions close.

All acceptable nominees must be:

  1. Native to Georgia (you can type USDA after the plant name in a Google search to look up its native distribution);
  2. Underutilized in gardens and landscapes and/or vital to the GA ecology;
  3. Adaptable enough to grow in most gardens;
  4. NOT a previous GNPS Plant of the Year. Previous winners can be found on the on the table below, as well as on the GNPS website.

Previous GNPS Plants of the Year


Botanical Name

Common Name


Lonicera sempervirens

Coral honeysuckle


Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry


Spigelia marilandica

Indian pink


Symphyotrichum georgianum

Georgia aster


Aesculus pavia

Red Buckeye


Sassafras albidum



Sanguinaria canadensis



Viburnum acerifolium

Mapleleaf viburnum


Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly weed


Quercus alba

White oak


Polystichum acrostichoides

Christmas fern


Itea virginica

Virginia sweetspire


Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal flower


Amelanchier arborea

Downy serviceberry


Oxydendrum arboreum



Tiarella cordifolia

Foam flower


Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle


Rhododendron canescens

Piedmont azalea


Hydrangea quercifolia

Oakleaf hydrangea

POY 2020 online voting will commence on Tuesday, October 22 and end on Monday, November 11.  Members will also be able to vote by paper ballot at our November 12th meeting.  Further information will be posted later in October, closer to the voting date.

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

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