March 2021 Chapter Program Highlights

| Meeting Highlights

  • A petition has started on ( in support of a statewide ban on the sale of non-native invasive ornamental plants, like those featured on our Facebook page last week. Members are encouraged to sign on in support of this important initiative.Thought of the Month:  As the snow melts and we turn our attention to spring, we are excited to get back to our gardens and get our hands in the soil!  Many of us plant natives so that our bird, bee and bug friends have food and shelter.  But have you considered planting a native food forest for people in your yard too?  The trend is to eat local, and you can’t get any more local than your yard!  Most people know about blueberries and raspberries, but what about persimmons, pawpaws, plums, elderberries, serviceberries, and blackberries?  We also have some pretty cool viburnums with edible berries, like nannyberry.  PA is home to nut trees like walnut and hickory, along with the hazelnut shrub.  We have groundnuts, ground cherries, and grapes. The Keystone Tree Crop program is a cooperative that unites tree crop producers, processors, and consumers. Did you know that you can eat Virginia spiderwort and common milkweed?  Teas can be made of passionflower, spicebush and evening primrose.  You can even try growing your own mushrooms.  Lion’s mane is one species native to PA.  It is known for its medicinal qualities as well as its culinary use. These are just some of our delicious native edibles. Just think what it would be like if every yard in your neighborhood had at least one native food plant!  What a great way to bring people and plants together! You could say goodbye to the grocery store and welcome spending more time in your garden. 
  • Presentation on Native Plant and Insect Relationships by Samantha Nestory, horticulturist at Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden, located in Villanova.
    • Stoneleigh is the newest public garden in the Philadelphia area, opening to the public in 2018 with a focus on plants native to our local ecoregion and beyond.
    • The insects that feed on native plant leaves are herbivores; some have specialized to feed on certain plants or plant families, while others are generalists and can feed on a wide range of plants.
      • The specialists have developed ways to combat their plant’s defenses against being eaten, including being able to tolerate the toxins produced by the plant which deter most insects from eating them. These specialists even sequester the toxins to protect themselves from being eaten by their own natural predators. Monarch butterflies are a well-known example of specialist insects whose larvae feed only on milkweed plants and sequester the plant’s toxins to protect themselves from becoming bird food.
      • There are also specialist beetles that feed on specific plants as larvae and as adults.
      • Because specialists depend on just one species of plant, they are experiencing the ecosystem damage caused by urbanization and habitat fragmentation more than the generalists.
    • Insects also feed on pollen. These pollinators can also be generalists (bumblebees) or specialists (miner bees). Some bees use plants to build their nests (leaf-cutter bees) as well as for food.
      • Of the 750 species of bees native to the eastern U.S., 25% of those are pollen specialists that can survive only on the pollen of certain plants.
      • Hoverflies are generalist pollinators and their larvae are great predators of aphids.
      • Beetles are also pollinators; they were the first pollinators, before butterflies and bees evolved.
    • Some plants are super-plants as far as supporting native insects – goldenrods, asters, native sunflowers (helianthus), and coneflowers (rudbeckias). Blueberries are a super-shrub, and willow, oak, and cherry are super-trees for insects.
    • Recyclers are the final group of insects that feed on plants. These often specialize on a particular stage of vegetative decay, rather than on a particular species. Some insects begin the decay cycle by burrowing into dead or fallen vegetation, while others continue the decomposition by digesting the vegetation (think termites). These insects can also transport bacteria and fungi into the fallen vegetation to hasten decomposition. The result will be soil that will nurture living plants.
    • Questions covered long-horn beetle grubs (they can be up to an inch long!), bald-faced hornets (they are wasps, not hornets, which feed on the destructive cabbage worm), 17-year cicadas (check out the informative article at, ground bees (they are wasps, not bees, and are beneficial predators In the garden as long as you can avoid stepping on a nest), and cicada killer wasps (beneficial native predators that feed on cicada larvae).
  • Opportunities
    • Members-only bulk tree purchase through Octoraro Nursery; members will receive an email with more information this week. If you’re interested in starting your own food forest, Octoraro has many native edibles available, including serviceberry, hackberry, plum, persimmon, bayberry, witch hazel, elderberry, cranberry, and chokecherry.
    • Wild Ones Tennessee Valley Chapter 10th Annual Native Plant Symposium, find more information on their Facebook page
    • Ohio State University webinar series, March 21-26, more information at
    • Missouri Prairie Foundation webinars:

You can view the recording of the meeting on our Youtube channel here:

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