Long time Wild Ones member Heather Holm, author of such books as Pollinators of Native Plants and Bees, will be featured at this year’s Fox Cities Book Festival in Wisconsin. On Monday, October 8th at 6:30PM, she will speak at the Elisha D Smith Public Library in Menasha about “The Pollination of Native Plants,” and on Tuesday, October 9th at 10:00AM, she will speak at the WILD Center in Neenah about “Gardening for Bees and Butterflies.” Copies of her books will be available for sale at both sessions. [Read more…]
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Reference my earlier post dated December 5, 2016 entitled Fall Habitat Maintenance and the comment from Stephen Thomforde regarding heterogeneity as it relates to leaving the leaves. Specifically Stephen wanted to remind us that we should “manage our landscape in ways that mimic biomass harvest by grazing animals and biotic fire.”
I thought with this post I would add to the list of things to do for fall clean-up mentioned in the above referenced post.
Fall is the time to collect seed to do a winter overseeding of your prairie or gardens or a new seeding of a new area. See Winter Seeding your Prairie.
Its also a good time to plan for next spring’s cold frames to use for starting those new seedlings from the seed you’ve collected. Find a sunny spot for nurturing next spring’s seedlings and plan to sow the seed this winter. The tops of cold frames can be made from recycled sturdy old windows. Don’t forget to label the seeds you are planting!
If you have more formal gardens, don’t clean native plant flower beds in the fall. Wait until spring after hibernating insects — bees and butterflies — have left the security of the stalks and leaf beds they’ve used to overwinter. See Flower Stalks for Bees and Autumnal Equinox.
Along with the fall rains and winds come a myriad of broken tree branches. Instead of hauling them away, consider building a brush pile to shelter birds, rabbits, snakes and other wildlife from pending inclement weather and predators. The fall and winter months are also best for pruning oaks and other native trees prone to modern day disease and non-native insects.
And last but not least, late fall is the best time to conduct your buckthorn census. Buckthorn is one of the few deciduous trees that is still green into November. So now is the the time to identify buckthorn. Pull buckthorn seedlings and either cut and paint the stems of larger trees with herbicide or mark them for future removal later into the season. Make certain to include in your plans for the spring, planting native shrubs and groundcovers in the areas from which you’ve removed the buckthorn.
If you have rain barrels, this is a good time of the year to sanitize them using the last of your salvaged rainwater, and then disconnect and empty the barrels.
See also Nature Scoop September 2018 by Toni Stahl for more hints for fall maintenance of native landscaping.
One of the things I learned from Heather Holm‘s recent participation in the Fox Cities Book Festival was to leave the flower stems from my prairie plants standing for use by the solitary bees for their nests. What a novel idea! Heather suggested cutting the stems of the prairie plants at about 12 to 15 inches above the ground, anywhere from late May to early June — well after the overwintering insects had left their beds.
Cutting the Stem
Leaving 15 inches of stem sounds like an okay thing to do until you realize the highest most mowers cut is 6 inches. Hm-m. Now what? Heather uses a hand-held cutting implement, perhaps like a really sharp hedge shears or a grass shears to cut the stems of her plants.
That would, however, be a humongous feat with a prairie my size or larger. I do already break off the stems of the taller plants, but I typically leave the shorter plants just as they are unless I’m able to burn a quarter of my prairie in the spring. Looks like I’ll need to be a little extra diligent about breaking over stem tops of all heights.
As I’ve researched this more closely, I’ve learned not all plants work as well for bee nests as some others. Okay, that reduces the amount of cutting and breaking off. The plants that work best have long, linear, strong flower stalks and can be of varying diameters:
- Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)
- Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
- Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
- Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
- Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteria)
- Asters (Symphyotrichum spp)
- Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)
- Cupplant, Rosinweed, Compass Plant, Prairie Dock (Silphium spp)
- Sunflowers (Helianthus spp)
- Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp)
- Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
- Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
- Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis)
- Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
- Big Bluestem (Andropogon geradii)
- Raspberry (Rubus spp)
- Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp)
Bees also use the pithy stems of woody plants such as:
- Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)
- Elderberry (Sambucus spp)
- Sumac (Rhus spp)
- Walnut (Juglans spp)
So, don’t be so quick to prune dead branches from trees and shrubs, and leave some piles of twigs and branches in your garden.
You can read about this and other interesting information about bees in Heather’s book Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide. It also contains an excellent bee and plant identification guide.
The Environmental Protection Act
In the 1960s, smog was killing Americans, lakes were so low on oxygen they sustained little life, and there was a 400 square mile oil spill off the coast of California that killed bird and other wildlife. Nixon had just become president with a mandate to find some way to fix the environmental problems and stop pollution.
Shortly after taking office, Nixon set up the Environmental Quality Council with the mission to solve these problems. The Environmental Policy Act of 1969 was signed into law on January 1, 1970. Later he signed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act into law. The Environmental Protection Agency which was the administration arm of these Acts became effective December 2, 1970 with William D Ruckelshaus at its head.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA)
The ESA has been amended many times during the past 45 years. But it was not until this administration that it could become the instrument of extinction for endangered and threatened wildlife and destruction of fragile habitat. This administration’s goal of deregulation would allow logging, drilling and other human activities at risk to the environment.
There have already been a number of changes made to the ESA by the current administration, but there are more than 100 proposals before Congress now which would weaken the ability of the federal government to protect endangered and threatened species and habitat even more. They reduce the USFWS’s ability to secure the protection of plant and animal species in peril, and at the same time make it easier to remove species from the protection of the Act.
According to the the Defenders of Wildlife, there are three main ways in which the current proposals would affect the protection of vulnerable wildlife and habitat and give the upper hand to exploitive industries — developers, oil companies, mining companies and big game/trophy hunters. By:
- Injecting economics into what should be purely science-based decisions about listing imperiled species;
- Depriving threatened species from automatically receiving protections from killing, trapping, and other forms of harm and commercial exploitation; and
- Limiting what wildlife experts can look at in their reviews of federal activities.
If these proposals are enacted, wolves along with other endangered and threatened wildlife and plants will be left to the mercy of the more economically-minded states.
See also the Senate’s Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018
What to do?
This Administration’s goal to deregulate the federal government seems to be without regard for the environment or how this might impact the future of the Earth and its residents. If you feel strongly one way or the other about the ramifications of the changes to the Act, please contact your congressman as soon as possible. Go to House.gov and Senate.gov to find their contact information.
Or send comments to the USFWS before September 24, 2018 through the Federal Register system as listed below.
Federal Register Info
“The changes are contained in three major ESA rulemakings currently being conducted by the Department of the Interior and/or the Department of Commerce and announced in the Federal Register on July 25, 2018. They are:
- Revision of the Regulations for Prohibition to Threatened Wildlife and Plants. 83 Fed. Reg. 35174 (July 25, 2018) (Department of the Interior only);
- Revision of Regulations for Interagency Cooperation 83 Fed. Reg. 35178 (July 25, 2018) (Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce); and
- Revision of the Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat, 83 Fed. Reg. 35193 (July 25, 2018) (Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce).” (Defenders of Wildlife)