February Native Plant News

| General, 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

Native flowers evolving away from pollinators in France
Research from the University of Montpellier (Paris, France) has found that field pansies (Viola arvensis) are producing smaller flowers and less nectar, potentially in response to declining pollinator populations. Plants grown from seeds collected several decades ago produced larger flowers and were more attractive to pollinators compared to plants from modern descendants. Field pansies can reproduce in two ways: through pollinator distribution of pollen and self-fertilization. Producing large flowers and nectar to attract pollinators is energetically expensive and is only worth the energetic cost if pollinators visit the flowers to pollinate the plant. However, self-fertilization leads to less genetic variation which in turn decreases ecosystem biodiversity. Increased self-fertilization by plants in response to a declining pollinator population also has the potential to further exacerbate the pollinator decline as pollinators will find less available food from plants.
John K. Kelly, Rapid adaptation of Viola arvensis to pollinator declines, New Phytologist, ePub ahead of print 2024 Jan 23.

Pollinator Preferences: Natives vs. Nativars?
Nativars are hybrids of native species bred for color, altered growth, and disease resistance. But are they as attractive to pollinators as native plants? A summary of several studies found that, in most cases, pollinators preferred the native plants that they co-evolved with and native plants attracted more bee species and more pollinator biodiversity. Why were nativars not as preferred by pollinators? Authors speculate that reason for this preference could be that native plants contain more nectar and pollen; some nativars might bloom at times that do not coincide with the activity periods of pollinators; and that altered nativar mophology may confuse pollinators. Native species are adapted to local conditions, have the highest genetic diversity, and are preferred by pollinators and are always the best choice. The author’s conclude that nativars do have some benefits since they are easily available and can be an introduction to native species for new gardeners.
Natives vs. ‘Nativar’ plants: Do pollinators notice a difference? – Washington Post.

Plant Hardiness Map Updates: What Does That Mean For Your Garden?
In November, the United States Department of Agriculture updated the plant hardiness map which is based on the average annual minimum temperature and these changes indicate increasingly warmer winter temperatures. What do zone changes due to increasingly warming temperatures mean for gardeners? Warmer winters mean pest species populations remain active longer and fewer die during the winter. Cold-adapted plants are at the most risk in a warming world. Weather extremes associated with climate change, such as drought and flooding, stress plants as well. It’s tempting for gardeners to think that they should replace their gardens with plants that do better in a warmer climate but experts caution against this action. Plants from warmer regions could become an invasive species in a different location. Instead, what gardeners can do is continue to plant native plants from their region, which increases their populations and genetic diversity which gives them a chance to adapt to a changing climate.
What do the updates to the USDA plant hardiness map mean for area gardeners? Don’t try to grow bananas just yet. How we can protect native species. – Boston.com.

Illinois Buckthorn Bounty: Paying Homeowners to Remove Invasive Plant
Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.) is a well-known scourge – an invasive species that crowds out native species by blocking access to sun, emits emodin (a chemical that stunts the growth of other species), and contains a diuretic in its berries which aids in their dispersal by birds. The Ancient Oaks Foundation, a conservation group from Lake Zurich, is paying up to $150 a household to remove invasive, non-native, buckthorn. Participants can earn $2 per stump ½ to 3 ¾ inches in diameter and $5 a stump 4 inches in diameter and larger. Interested homeowners in the area can sign up on the Ancient Oaks Foundation website and will be given removal instructions and a home visit to learn to identify buckthorn. Since the bounty program was introduced late 2023, ten households have signed up so far.
A bounty on buckthorn: How conservation group is targeting invasive plant. – Daily Herald.

Investing in America Agenda: $18 Million Towards Enhancing Native Seed Supply
Through habitat loss and climate-related extreme weather events, native plant species are disappearing, the ecosystems that they support are in danger, and invasive species are taking hold. In response, nearly $18 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will go towards the National Seed Strategy Keystone Initiative to invest in a native seed supply to restore native landscapes, preserve genetic diversity, increase area climate resilience, and prevent ecological damage. Funding will go to growing, collecting, storing, research, and the labor required to build a native seed supply. By investing in regional seed production, a restoration-related economy could be built that both benefits rural communities as well as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity.
Biden-Harris Administration Announces $18 Million from Investing in America Agenda to Enhance Native Seed Supply, Bolster Climate Resilience – Department of the Interior.

Colorado: Native Pollinator Health Study
Colorado hosts a rich variety of native pollinating insects, which, despite being relatively healthy in many areas, face risks from human-induced environmental changes, with evidence of decline in certain regions. A 306-page study by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and collaboradors outlines that the biodiversity of native pollinating insects are key to a healthy environment and economy. The study concluded that these important insect species populations are fragile and are on the decline due to habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, climate change, and land management practices. Five future priorities for pollinating insect health and managment: 1) protecting native pollinating insects; 2) protecting, restoring, and connecting pollinator habitats; 3) mitigating negative environmental changes that affect pollinators and their habitats; 4) reducing pesticide risks; and 5) monitoring and supporting pollinator health.
Native Pollinating Insects Health Study – Colorado Department of Natural Resources.