March 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

Georgia: Effects of Climate Change on Georgia’s Native Plants
During a meeting of naturalists, Ashley Desensi, a professor at Columbus State University, stated that 650 out of the 4,000 Georgia’s native plants are listed as species of special concern and are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Climate change is advancing the timing and duration of flowering in native plants, with Georgia experiencing first leaf up to 20 days early. Earlier flowering and leaf out leads to timing mismatches with the insects and animals that depend on these plants. Plants that leaf and bud earlier are also vulnerable to late-season frosts. While native plants are resilient, Densensi said planting more native plants and removing non-natives helps them flourish and emphasized the importance of advocating for policies that support native plants.  
These native plants in Georgia are threatened by climate change. What are they? -Ledger-Enquirer

Can Homeowner Associations Embrace Native Landscaping?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 84% of new, single-family homes sold in 2022 belonged to a Homeowners Association (HOA). These organizations make and enforce rules about what members can do with their property- leading to disputes between HOAs and homeowners installing native plant landscaping into their yards. HOA rules often mandate “maintained, mowed lawns” to protect property values. Many believe native plant landscapes to be “messy” despite their rising popularity. Native plant enthusiasts are pushing back, arguing that native plants can be incorporated aesthetically, provide ecological value, and require less maintenance than lawns and non-native ornamental plants. Homeowners and environmental organizations have helped secure the right to plant natives in HOA communities. An example of such a law is Maryland’s first-in-the-nation legislation passed in 2021, which protects homeowners’ rights to grow native plants in communities governed by homeowners associations (HOAs). This set a precedent for other states like Maine and Minnesota to follow with similar measures. Not all HOAs have been opposed to native landscaping. In drier states like California and Arizona, HOAs have been eager to incorporate native plants since they reduce wildfire risks and water usage. Other HOAs have been amenable to collaborating with property owners. If you live in an HOA or are concerned about neighbor complaints about your native plant landscaping, Audubon recommends starting small, choosing plants with colorful flowers and foliage, and keeping your landscaping tidy.
New laws protect bird-friendly yards from neighborhood rules -Audubon

North Carolina: Out with Invasives, In with Natives!
The Greensboro City Council has enacted a policy promoting the use of native plants and removing invasive plants from city properties. With a few exceptions, any new or replacement city-installed planting in outdoor landscaping must at least be 50% native seed or plants that are native to North Carolina. City officials are also working to create a list of plant species native to just Guilford County. “Native plants help maintain, restore, and protect the health and biodiversity of local ecosystems, supporting native pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Native plants often require less maintenance, in addition to being part of the historical and cultural heritage of the community” the City wrote as the reason for adopting this policy. Ordinances like this one are gaining in popularity around the country, reflecting a growing awareness and appreciation for the environmental, economic, and cultural benefits of native vegetation.
Greensboro wants more native plants to protect the environment. Here’s how you can help… -WFMY News2

South Carolina: Invasives Got Your Goat?
What’s one way to get rid of invasive species? How about three dozen hungry goats? The city of Greenville, South Carolina hired goats from Roxbury Goat Barn who feasted on kudzu, English Ivy, privet, and Japanese knotweed in Cleveland Park. These noxious invasive species clog waterways and outcompete native species. Staci Schafer, Greenville’s parks and grounds administrator, said that using goats to remove invasive species is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to pesticides that could enter the nearby river. 
Dozens of goats removing invasive plant species at Greenville park -WSPA 7News

California: Icing Out the Ice Plant
The East Beach Habitat Restoration Project recently completed the restoration of native plants on dunes that used to be covered by invasive, non-native ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis). The city removed 1.1 acres of ice plant “carpet” from the East Beach coastal dunes. In its place, 3,200 Central Coast native plants were installed: silver bur ragweed (Ambrosia chamissonis), pink sand verbena (Abronia umbellata), dune morning glory (Convolvulus althaeoides), beach suncap (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia), and seacliff buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium). Last September, the ice plant carpet was covered with a black tarp to kill the plant and its seeds through solarization. The ice plant, native to South Africa, was introduced to California in the early 1900s as a way to prevent erosion along railroad tracks and roadsides. However, it has spread aggressively, altering soil composition and smothering native plants. These five native coastal dune plant species will help aid in the stabilization and formation of sand dunes, support birds and wildlife, and promote Santa Barbara’s ecology.
Replacing the carpet with rags on Santa Barbara’s East Beach -Santa Barbara Independent

The Invasive Plant Time Bomb
Non-native plants have been introduced to new environments, either accidentally or intentionally, through agriculture, ornamental purposes, and medicinal uses among other reasons. A study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution found that some invasive species can remain dormant for decades and even centuries. With the average time being 40 years, nearly ⅓ of the invasive plant species that were investigated were dormant between arrival and expansion into their new environments. Sycamore maples had the longest dormancy at 320 years. In 90% of cases, climate conditions were different when the species began to spread which suggests that the species were waiting for the right conditions or adapted to the new environment. According to study lead author, Mohsen Mesgaran: “The longer it is dormant, we’re more likely to ignore it. This latency allows them to be overlooked, contributing to their eventual emergence as a serious invasive threat. They’re like invasive time bombs”. Considering this new information regarding invasive plant dormancy periods provides an important tool in land management and preventing further spread of invasive species. 
Invasive plant time bombs: A hidden ecological threat -UC Davis

Hawaii: Replanting Lahaina 
Lahainaluna High School is revitalizing its agricultural program and contributing to the reforestation of Lahaina, Maui, after the devastating wildfires of 2023. The agricultural land at Lahainaluna High School, previously utilized for growing vegetables and fruit for students and the community, is now being revitalized by a volunteer event organized by Kanu Hawai’i’s Pledge to Our Keiki, involving students, organizations, and community members to clear the area for the cultivation of native lei flowers, plants, trees, and fruit trees. These plants and trees will be replanted in the community and expand the native seed bank.Included in the restoration efforts was a grafted root from “Puloa,” an approximately 250-year-old ‘ulu (breadfruit) tree that suffered severe damage during the devastating 2023 wildfire. The root, part of a line that may go back over 1,200 years, will be planted on the high school campus symbolically encouraging students to strengthen their own roots to their past while looking forward towards their future.
Restoring Roots: Lahainaluna High School takes steps towards replanting Lahaina with help from volunteers -MauiNow

New York: Roosevelt Island’s Revolutionary Pocket Forest
New York City is set to welcome its first “pocket forest” on Roosevelt Island this April, featuring over 1,000 native plants on a 2,700 sq ft plot. Inspired by the Miyawaki method, this dense, fast-growing forest aims to enhance urban biodiversity and offer residents benefits like flood mitigation and ecosystem restoration. The project, led by the nonprofit SUGi, emphasizes the importance of green spaces in cities for cooling, shade, water absorption, and wildlife habitation. Manhattan’s borough president, Mark Levine, highlighted the initiative’s potential to cool neighborhoods and expressed a desire to extend such green infrastructure to underserved communities. The planting, which costs around $54,000, has attracted over 300 volunteers and is a step towards addressing urban heat disparities and enriching the city’s environmental landscape.
The Big Apple gets a tiny forest: 1,000 native plants coming to New York -The Guardian

New Jersey: Students Spearhead Rewilding Effort on Campus
In an initiative to restore local ecosystems and enhance biodiversity, The College of New Jersey is transforming its campus landscape by reintroducing native plants. Despite the cold and rainy weather, participants gathered for a planting day, inspired by the movement to replace lawns and decorative shrubs with native flora. Led by Professor Miriam Shakow, the effort aims to attract insects, resist deer, and contribute to a larger campus-wide project turning the college into a living lab for sustainability. The project, which attracted volunteers from the environmental club and passersby, is part of a broader initiative to enhance biodiversity and provide a hands-on learning experience for students across disciplines.
A college gardening group is bringing native plants back and ‘rewilding’ New Jersey -NPR