A Field Walk to Visit Native Plants by Rachel Levi

by Jenna on September 12, 2017

A Field Walk to Visit Native Plants

by Rachel Levi, Programs Director

This morning I accompanied our farm managers on their Wednesday farm walk.  This weekly ritual is like a combination football huddle and nature hike.  They make observations to determine which farm tasks are most pressing.  They troubleshoot the crops: why are these hot peppers withering, when right beside them other peppers plants are so lush?  What can we do differently next time we lay down the insect netting to ensure that no corner is left open leaving the veggies vulnerable?  We also made note of signs of a thriving ecosystem.  We had a moment of reverence before the sight of a tiny yellow goldfinch bobbing around on gleaming fuchsia Echinacea blossoms.

The walk also gave me a chance to check in on the progress of the native plants in the fruit tree berms.  EarthDance’s Native’s Project kicked off this spring.  EarthDance is planting hundreds of natives across our farm school campus.  The species were chosen particularly for their attractiveness to pollinators and beneficial insects.  Since May, we’ve planted twenty+ species of native wildflowers and over 700 plants!

The plants had to be hardy: though they took to the ground in spring, they have had to survive hot and dry July with no supplemental irrigation.  Plus they were in competition with aggressive agricultural weeds like hop vine, foxtail, and nut sedge.  During my walk, I noted spots where dense clumps of grass replaced delicate native seedlings.  But there have also been some clear winners among the natives: tough and beautiful plants that are already very popular with butterflies and bees.  Among them:

Dotted Mint: The bright lavender flowers of the Dotted Mint are like a flashing neon sign to the bees.  I read that it is also a top nectar plant for the rare Karner Blue Butterfly.

Boneset: this plant’s small, fluffy, white flowers are abundant now.  Historically, boneset was commonly included in medical herb gardens and used as a folk medicine for treatment of flu, fevers, colds and a variety of other maladies.

Red Milkweed: You are probably familiar with “milkweeds for monarchs;” the leaves are a preferred food source for caterpillars of both the Monarch and Queen butterflies.  I’ve seen butterflies and bumble bees visiting the pink frilly blossoms.

Lanceleaf Coreposis: The cheerful, golden-yellow flowers have been blooming for weeks.

Hyssop: the crushed leaves of Lavender Hyssop, also known as Anise Hyssop, have a fragrance of mint and licorice.  It seems like a butterfly magnet!

Come visit us on the farm to see the profusion for yourself.

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