April 2024 Native Plant News

| Native Plant News

To further Wild Ones’ mission to connect people and native plants, we are excited to continue a new monthly blog focused on native plants in national news. This regular feature aims to educate, engage, and inspire action by spotlighting conservation issues and scientific findings related to native flora.

By: Gina Bartleson, Wild Ones Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Area (IA) Chapter

Illinois: Million(s)-Dollar Makeover
A $10 million restoration project is being conducted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County to improve 1,000 acres of land at Palos Preserve, located in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Forest Service employees and contractors will remove invasive species, implement erosion control, and perform trail maintenance. These improvements will not only restore the preserve to health and support native plants and animals but will also lead to a healthy tree canopy that will absorb stormwater and reduce flooding risks and clean the air, thereby improving the lives of county residents. The largest ecological restoration plan in its history, it’s funded with a state grant while a property tax hike will take care of the land once it’s restored. The Cook County forest preserves are one of the largest in the country with almost 70,000 acres of natural areas. The goal of the Forest Preserve is to restore and maintain 30,000 acres by 2040. 
Cook County Forest Preserves is launching a $10 million makeover of Palos Preserves -WBEZ.com

Ohio: Bogged Down 
The Triangle Lake Bog, located in Ravenna, Ohio, is a wetland that was formed during the last ice age. Natural succession and invasive species may cause this bog, and others, to disappear. According to Adam Wohlever, the regional manager of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 90% of Ohio’s wetlands have been lost and less than 2% of original bogs are left. Bogs, also known as peatlands, are composed of peat which is decomposed plant material, mostly sphagnum moss which can hold water over 20 times its volume. Part of the bog’s loss is due to ecological succession and habitats changing with time. Invasive species are the other problem: ornamental plants used for landscaping that have escaped beyond the yard and into the bog. The Triangle Lake Bog will not be around forever and with it goes the purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and the tamarack tree (Larix laricina) and other species that call the acidic bog their home. 
Bogs threatened by mother nature and non-native plants -Spectrum News 1

Florida: When is the right time to delist a species?

The Florida golden aster (Chyrsopsis floridana), found only in Hillsborough county in just nine known clusters, was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1986. Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the golden aster from the endangered species list, stating that habitat acquisition, plant propagation and reintroduction were successful, and the plant population is expanding and is no longer in danger of extinction. Some plant experts disagree. According to experts at Archbold Biological Center, the Venus-based research institute, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor golden aster populations, there are only 10 viable populations out of the 20 populations required to remove the species from the list. Experts from Archbold and Bok Tower Gardens (Lake Wales) warned federal officials that the populations are performing poorly and require long-term monitoring, especially in the face of increasing development pressure in the Tampa Bay region. Development is mostly responsible for the Florida golden aster’s initial population decline: the populations found in 1986 were located in sites that were eventually lost to development. Areas surrounding the land preserves that contain reintroduced golden aster populations, for example Golden Aster Scrub Preserve and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, are predicted to be developed in the near future. The federal agency said that it will monitor the plant for at least 5 years and if the species starts to decline, they may consider relisting the species.
Found only in Tampa Bay, a rare flower is no longer endangered. Is that good? -Tampa Bay Times

Virginia: Home of America’s First Campus-Based Native Food Forest
More than 50 species and 1,700 plants were installed at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus in a location now known as Foragers’ Forest, America’s first campus-based native food forest dedicated to feeding humans and wildlife alike. Using the Akira Miyawaki method, designs for this native food forest used a high diversity of native plant species and mixed dense planting to mimic natural forest regeneration patterns. Tree clusters were surrounded by native meadow that supports pollinators and other wildlife. Edible plants, native to Fairfax County, included strawberries, blueberries, black raspberries, persimmons, oaks, hickories, and American chestnuts. The site will also have a dual purpose as a Living Lab space where students can experiment to promote conservation, climate resilience, food security, and sustainability measures. Graduate student Sarah Roth, who led the project with Professor Dann Sklarew, stressed that the future depends on building spaces that serve people and wildlife and hopes this project offers a blueprint others can take and improve on.
A native food forest takes root on Mason’s Fairfax Campus -George Mason University

Texas: Native Plant Preservation for Wildfire Prevention
In response to the devastating Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas, the largest wildfire in the state’s history, residents of Bexar County are rallying not only to bolster fire safety measures but also to champion the preservation of native plants. Spearheaded by Firewise USA, this program provides tools and strategies to homeowners, enabling them to manage vegetation and materials around their homes that could potentially fuel fires. Key to this initiative is the creation of defensible spaces that act as barriers to slow the spread of fire, giving firefighters a better chance to control and extinguish it before it reaches homes or becomes unmanageable. The Cibolo Canyons Firewise team is now directing their focus to saving native plants. The program highlights the resilience and ecological significance of native plants, which have adapted to be more fire-resistant and are crucial for maintaining the health of the forest. Charlie Lewis, the Firewise head for the Campanas neighborhood, wants to use this devastating fire as a warning to decrease his own community’s chances of having a wildfire and wants to take action in his own yard. Lewis noted that many native plants have adapted to be fire-resistant and those populations are necessary to a healthy forest.
Bexar County residents push fire preparation, native plant preservation after largest wildfire in Texas history -KSAT.com)

Washington D.C.: April is Native Plant Month
US. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) announced Senate unanimous passage of her bipartisan resolution designating April 2024 as National Native Plant Month. Also led by Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), this resolution acknowledges the importance of native plants to environmental conservation, restoration, and biodiversity. Sen. Hirono is proud of the new resolution, representing Hawai’i, a state that has more than 40% of the country’s endangered and threatened plant species. The resolution was endorsed by more than 200 organizations across the country, including dozens of Wild Ones Chapters!
Senate passes Hirono resolution designating April as ‘Native Plant Month’ -Maui Now

Arizona: Stinky Stinknet
Blooming from February to May, the yellow Stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum) is an unwelcome invasive plant. Not only does it stink like its name implies, it competes for much-needed water and nutrients with Sonoran Desert native species. It can also cause contact dermatitis and respiratory symptoms in humans. Ben Tully, with the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension, encourages people to pull it immediately before it gets out of control.
The smelly yellow plant in full bloom, impacting native plants -KGUN9.com

Viral Transmission: Crops to Native Plants
A study led by Michigan State University and the University of California has discovered that non-native crop viruses are infecting wild desert plants. The study investigated the Cucurbita species of wild squash that grew near irrigated agriculture in southern California and found the presence of crop pathogens like cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus and cucurbit aphid-borne yellows virus (CABYV) and that insects carried the harmful pathogens from the agriculture fields to native ecosystems. Infection rates of CABVY (a non-native pathogen) reached as high as 88% in some Cucurbita species and impacted plant growth and root health, especially important in desert environments. Cucurbita are important pieces of the desert ecosystem, providing food and habitat for other species. Population declines due to these viruses could have wide-reaching effects. Carolyn Malmstrom, co-lead on the study, hopes these findings shed light on human impacts on the landscape that may be harder to see: crop microbes that may change native plant community structure over time. 
Wild plants face viral surprise-Michigan State University