Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Learning to Chill

Purple Love Grass at sitting area
Several days ago I helped weed at one of the local county parks.  There was a bed of Purple Love Grass surrounding a formal sitting area which we wanted to tidy up.  Bryan, the Wood County Park District stewardship coordinator, asked me to clear out all the growth up to the fence.  Wait a minute!  "Bryan, there's a couple of young milkweed plants here.  You don't want me to pull those, do you?"  He assured me that we had plenty  and there was no danger of running out if he wanted more to plant somewhere.  "I'll take them."  "Sure, he said".  Then Joy who was weeding and thinning out another bed, had large clumps of Tall Ironweed, so large she needed a shovel to get them out.  "NO!  Don't throw those away.  I'll take them."  Bryan diplomatically told me to chill out.  This was a very common native and he had more than he could possibly use.  Besides, he grew 13,000 natives from seed last year and could always get more.  At the end of the session, he helped me load two tubs of Ironweed, and the small milkweed plants into my truck.  I'm glad to report they all are doing well, but I learned something.  Just because it is native doesn't mean you have to let it grow, particularly where you don't want it.
Oak seedlings - squirrel planted
When I started this journey a few months ago, I felt I had to preserve every single native plant I found.  These plants are special and we really do need them.  But he truth is some are very common, some not so common, and some are rare and endangered.  As I walk around our yard everyday, I run across a number of very common native plants growing where I don't really want them.  Ever questioning what I find growing around the house, I've taken leaf samples to Pam and Debbie, two of the naturalists for the Park District.  They recently identified one as an American Elm.  I didn't know we still had Elm trees, yet alone in our yard.  I thought all elms were killed long ago by Dutch Elm disease.   Now that I know what the leaf looks like, I'm discovering scads of little Elms.   The squirrels have obviously been doing a great job of planting Hickory nuts and acorns.  The Shagbark Hickory and Oak seedlings are numerous.  However, native though they are, and terrific trees for supporting wildlife, I can't let these seedlings grow where they are.  I'm transplanting a few of them to fill in for some Ash trees killed by the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer.  The rest of theses little seedlings will have to go in the compost heap.  I wonder if I could give them away through Craig's list?  It would certainly be nice if these native tree seedlings could find a nice home.  I still wince every time I do it, but I'm now pulling up many common natives just like any weed. 

Oh, by the way.  Those Purple Love Grass plants I carefully weeded really caught my attention.  So much so, I bought several from our local native nursery.  These little plants have now replaced several non-native ornamental grass clumps I had in front of the house.  It's probably going to be several years before they grow into the basketball size flowering clumps I saw at the park.  How do I wait that long?

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