Although it’s not the winter season yet, we had our first snowfall here in Northeast Wisconsin. I love how fresh and new a good snowfall always makes everything look. But now I wonder if I’m ever going to get the rest of the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) leaves spread out over our yard. I’ve found over the years, that the leaves from the three huge maples that line one edge of our driveway do not break down as readily as the native maple leaves do. The Norway Maple leaves tend to smother underlying plant material, so we typically make every attempt to get them broken up and moved around in the fall as much as we can.
Wild Ones Fox Valley Area Chapter is celebrating its 23rd Toward Harmony with Nature all-day conference on natural landscapes, native plants, biodiversity and wildlife this January 19, 2019. The Value of Ecological Restoration will focus on ecological awareness, and provide insight in helping us actively participate in restoring the health of our lands and how it benefits ourselves and others. What our speakers have to say should be of interest to anyone (homeowners, gardeners, landscapers, teachers, ecologists, municipal leaders, wildlife enthusiasts, nursery owners, etc).
Want to learn more about native landscaping and the positive effect it has on our ecosystems and our general health? Join us in learning from our speakers how we can apply their lessons toward creating a healthy habitat in our gardens and our own yards.
The Value of Ecological Restoration
This year’s conference is again being held at the Oshkosh Convention Center, 2 North Main Street on Saturday, January 19, 2019.
8:45AM – 4:15PM Registration 8:00-8:45AM Lunch 11:45AM-1:15PM
The Value of Ecological Restoration by David Cordray, Senior Restoration Ecologist & Engineer and Owner of Environmental Returns, LLC
Was your youth rich in outdoor adventures? Did you use these adventures as your classrooms for your ecological goals today? Our keynote speaker David Cordray was fortunate to be able to do so. Through his keynote, he will share his journey to finding ecological awareness and his insight into why we must actively participate in restoring the health of our lands. Wishing to give others the opportunity to participate in their natural heritage, he will explore reasons for striving for ecological health, how the work benefits others and how we can influence a greater ecological awareness.
As an engineer, David Cordray’s first career was working with environmental monitoring satellites. He changed careers in 2008, and brought his creative ideas, work ethic and knowledge to natural lands management. One of his research interests is native landscape design methods and planning to enhance the human outdoor experience. Since 2001, he and his wife, Debra, have been actively restoring their 100 acres near Belleville, WI to prairie and oak savanna.
Nine other presentations follow the keynote which will address using native plants and creating natural landscapes in our homes and communities.
Morning Speakers – Concurrent Session I (10:30-11:45AM):
- “Native Trees and Shrubs that Work Together”
Ben French, propagator, Johnson’s Nursery Inc
- “Natural Shoreline Restoration for Water Quality Protection”
Paul Skawinski, Citizen Lake Monitoring Network Educator, UW-Extension Lakes Program
- “The Importance of Prairies to Threatened and Endangered Species”
Sarah Warner, United States (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist
Afternoon Speakers – Concurrent Session II (1:15-2:30PM):
- “Integrating Natural Systems into Urban Landscapes”
Steve Apfelbaum, Chairman and Senior Ecologist, Applied Ecological Services
- “Measure Twice and Cut Once: The Importance of Planning and Adaptive Management When Restoring Oak Ecosystems”
Aaron Feggestad, Senior Associate Ecologist, Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.
- “Amazed by Invasives – 15 Years on 15 Acres”
Katharine Grant, Natural Ecosystems Management
Afternoon Speakers – Concurrent Session III (3:00-4:15PM):
- “Urban Lot, Native Plants, Big Change”
Loris Damerow, Past President Wild Ones Fox Valley Area Chapter
- “Restoring Your Woodland to Health” Frank Hassler, President and Ecologist, Good Oak Ecological Services
- “The Present and Future of Goose Pond Sanctuary’s Prairies”
Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin, Resident Managers, Goose Pond Sanctuary
Mailed pre-registration must be postmarked no later than Friday, January 11, 2019.
On-line pre-registration for lunch with the conference ends at midnight, Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
On-line preregistration for just the conference ends at midnight, Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
On-site registration day of the event is available: $40 member, $45 non-member, $20 student
Teachers bringing five or more students receive a free registration. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or call Conference Coordinator at 920-766-2292.
Lodging Accommodations – a limited number of rooms are available for $89.99 single or double occupancy at the Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel adjoining the Convention Center. To make reservations call 855-230-1900. Be sure to mention the Wild Ones conference to get the special rate.
I have many favorite plants, but one of my favorite pine trees is the Tamarack, also known as the American Larch (Larix laricina). It’s such a unique tree. It looks like a coniferous tree, but it goes dormant every year and loses its needles — but not before turning the most beautiful shade of yellow.
We find the Tamarack growing around our hunting property and all over in Northern Wisconsin. It likes lowlands like swamps and bogs, and grows in areas where there are sedge mats and hummocks. It also likes the cold, so as the temperature increases due to climate change, the larch will likely move further north.
Its bark is unusual, too. The light colored bark is scaly and has a pink cast; underneath it actually looks reddish-orange. In the winter you can see lichen growing on its bare branches. Unlike most coniferous trees, it has long deep roots which help keep the larch alive for hundreds of years. Its brown pine cones are very small, typically about 3/4 inch long. All these characteristics help to make it fire resistant.
Western Larch (Larix occidentalis)
When I attended a wildflower conference in Montana in 2016, I talked with a fellow-attendee, who was researching the after-growth from wild fires, about my love of the larch. She told me about a small stand of the biggest larch she had ever seen at Seeley Lake in Montana. It was on the way back to the Amtrak railroad station in Glacier Park, so we made the detour. I have to say she was right — I was in such awe of the size of these trees that I forgot to take photos until we were well away from the lake.
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.