Search Results for: butterflies

Where have all the butterflies gone?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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For all those garden enthusiasts—whether you have a green thumb or not—have you noticed anything different this season?

The reason I’m asking the question is that I’m yet to see any butterflies in my backyard. Don’t know if I just haven’t seen them or of something else is going on.

I’ve tried to create a healthy natural setting that will encourage regular visits from benefitial insects and wildlife. I normally use greenscaping techniques to protect the environment. I have specifically planted several shrubs and perennials that supposedly attract bees, butterflies and birds—aster, yarrow, butterfly bush, and daylilies, to name a few. Overall, the flowering plants are blossoming as expected this year. Currently, I’ve noticed that my birdhouses already have their share of regular tenants. The hummingbirds have already made an early appearance—but no butterflies.

I was hoping to enjoy the colorful scenery with these fluttering visitors while leisurely resting at my deck, but I suppose I’ll have to be patient. Nonetheless, I have two other options in the DC metropolitan area at this time to see butterflies from around the world. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History has an exhibit on Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution through the 10th of August and the Brookside Gardens South Conservatory in Wheaton, MD has a live butterfly exhibit called “Wings of Fancy” through September 21st. I highly recommend them to anyone who wishes to learn more about these colorful insects. If you’re traveling through DC, they exhibits are definitely worth a couple hours of your time.

In the meantime, I welcome advice on attracting butterflies to my garden.

¿Para dónde se han ido las mariposas?

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Para aquellas personas que les gusta la jardinería—independientemente si tienen buena mano o no—¿han notado algo diferente esta temporada?

La razón por la cual pregunto es que todavía no he visto mariposas en mi patio. No sé si se trata de que aún no las he podido ver o si algo irregular está ocurriendo.

He tratado de crear un entorno natural saludable que fomente las visitas rutinarias de la vida silvestre e insectos beneficiosos. Normalmente utilizo las técnicas de jardinería ecológica para proteger el medio ambiente. He sembrado arbustos y plantas perennes que supuestamente atraen abejas, mariposas y aves. En general, todas las plantas han florecido abundantemente este año. En la actualidad las pequeñas casitas de pájaros tienen sus habitantes tradicionales. Incluso los zumbadores han aparecido temprano esta temporada—pero las mariposas brillan por su ausencia.

Esperaba poder disfrutar el colorido paisaje a mi alrededor viendo a los pequeños visitantes revoloteándose en el aire mientras descansaba en mi balcón, pero parece que tendré que ser más paciente. No obstante, tengo dos opciones en el área metropolitana de Washington para ver mariposas provenientes de todo el mundo. Se trata de dos exposiciones. Una en el Museo de Historia Natural de la Institución Smithsonian llamada Mariposas + Plantas: Socios en la evolución que dura hasta el 10 de agosto y otra en los Jardines Brookside en Wheaton, MD llamada “Alas de fantasía” hasta el 21 de septiembre. Ambas son excelentes y las recomiendo para cualquiera que quiera ver estos coloridos insectos. Si está pasando por DC, estas exposiciones definitivamente merecen un par de horas de su tiempo.

Mientras tanto, espero que alguien me pueda aconsejar sobre cómo atraer las mariposas a mi jardín.

Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 29, 2016

Street Fair
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Free fun for the whole family, including arts, crafts, antiques, plants, entertainment, games and more.

Nature Sanctuary
2:00 PM
During these limited hours, visitors can explore the normally closed sanctuary at their own pace along the rustic trail. See how the conservancy has restored this native woodland garden for birds and other wildlife. The wood-chipped trail is uneven; please wear appropriate shoes.

This ecosystem is a protected area and home to many flora and fauna. No groups, dogs, bikes, or strollers. Free and self-guided. Space is limited.

Summer Garden
7/24 – 7/31/16
Summer Sunday evenings are always a little bit lovelier when MoMA’s free summer garden concert series rolls around. Each year, the museum hosts live jazz and classical music performances for those lucky enough to score a free seat. And you can’t find a better environment than MoMA’s serene Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The month’s shows include performers from the Juilliard School and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Seating opens at 7pm; concerts start at 8pm. For more details, visit

Saturday – July 30, 2016

Hester Street Fair
11:00AM – 6:00PM
This fair will feature a diverse roster of 60 curated vendors and curiously creative entrepreneurs delivering design, art, fashion and food. The fair will also host a series of hands-on workshops, collaborative activities and special events.

Sunday – July 31, 2016

Hudson River Nature Walk
Learn about the park’s wildlife by joining experienced naturalists on guided nature walks along the more park’s esplanade. Enjoy a meandering waterfront walk while viewing and learning about the park’s flora and fauna, including some of the 85 different species of birds identified within Park boundaries. Peek into some of our many gardens to discover butterflies, dragonflies and other interesting insects. Get to know the native plants that thrive in unexpected places in and around the river’s edge. Each nature walk is unique and offers a one-of-a-kind treasure hunt-like experience. Please wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Loud noises and barking tend to startle wildlife and reduce viewing opportunities – please be considerate and leave your dog at home.

Harlem Week
Starts 7/31/16
What began in 1974 as a one-day tribute to Harlem has evolved over four decades into a month long celebration of the community’s rich economic, political and cultural history. Things kick off on July 31 with “A Great Day In Harlem” and reach a fever pitch during the bursting-at-the-seams weekend of events held under the banner of “Summer in the City” (August 20) and “Harlem Day” (August 21), including an auto show, children’s festival, small-business expo, fashion show, educational fair, outdoor film screening, a dancing in the street party and the inaugural Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival.

It’s a Lawn Mower! It’s a Weed Whacker! No…it’s a Herd of Goats!

By Sara Ernst

EPA’s research facility in Narragansett, Rhode Island recently enlisted the help of a highly skilled landscaping team to create more pollinator-friendly habitat on the premises.  The team doesn’t use chemicals or pollute the air with carbon emissions, can work on just about any terrain or slope, and loves to eat poison ivy.  So, who is this slightly peculiar dream team? A herd of goats from Laurel Hill MicroFarm in Hope, Rhode Island!

Before the goats and their herders arrived, the facility had a maze of invasive plants plaguing the perimeter of the property, however, over the course of 10 days, these impressive eaters were able to safely consume all the poison ivy and invasive vegetation in the area.

My family always says I have a hole in my foot because of how much I can eat, but let me tell you, I’ve got nothing on these goats!  One goat can eat about 100 square feet of vegetation a day, varying with density – and we were working with a team of 16!  The goats were constantly frolicking back and forth between various plants, small trees, and shrubs, eating to their hearts content and only stopping when they needed short digestion breaks.  When a designated area was cleared, they’d look at their herder as if to say, “Okay what’s next? We’re hungry!”

a herd of goats take on a big plant

goats hard at work eating plantsa white goat reaches up to take a bite out of a leaf


Habitat loss is one of the main reasons pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies have declined in abundance over the past few decades.  By removing overgrown landscaping and nuisance plant species from our property, the goats are protecting native plants that serve as pollinator habitat from invasive vegetation that could have easily disturbed their growth and threatened their survival.  Space has also been created so new pollinator-friendly vegetation has room to grow, and areas have been left free of plant life to provide habitat for ground-nesting pollinators like bumble bees.

Taking steps to protect and increase habitat for pollinators helps to mitigate their decline and strengthen their numbers.  These efforts are essential in protecting the health of the environment and in ensuring the sustainability of our food production systems, as well as their continued economic contribution to the agriculture industry.  EPA is committed to helping restore pollinator populations to healthy levels, consistent with the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators”.

This is the first time EPA has used conservation grazing or “goatscaping”, and I doubt it will be the last.  Goats are efficient workers, environmentally-friendly, and able to work safely and easily in areas that may be dangerous or difficult for humans and heavy equipment.  Best of all, by using goats to clear overgrown landscaping, especially invasive plant life, we are helping pollinators prosper.  Visit EPA’s pollinator protection page to learn more about pollinator health, what EPA is doing, and how you can help!

About the Author:  Sara Ernst is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and works as the Science Communications Specialist in the Atlantic Ecology Division of EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Promoting Pollinator Health at the EPA Western Ecology Division

By Randy Comeleo

This week two years ago, acknowledging that pollinators are struggling to survive and are critical to the Nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to create a Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. Under the leadership of EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Strategy has three goals:

  1. Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels;
  2. Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and
  3. Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

Here at EPA’s Western Ecology Division in Corvallis, Oregon, we responded to the President’s “all hands” call to promote pollinator health by planting over 650 native flowering plants, bunchgrasses, and shrubs in a Pollinator Habitat Garden during spring 2015.  A “bee hotel” was also constructed to accommodate mason bees and other solitary nesting bees.

A honey bee and a milkweed flower

A honey bee gathers pollen from showy milkweed flowers in the EPA Western Ecology Division Pollinator Garden.

lots of honey bees gather around the hive entrance

Honey bees at the hive entrance in WED’s Milkweed Meadow.

honey bees swarm in and around mason bee housing

Mason Bee housing in the WED Pollinator Garden.

This spring, we installed a honeybee hive and our pollinator garden is flourishing! We’ve also started one hundred milkweed seedlings—a plant that monarch butterflies are dependent on—from the seeds we collected last fall and will plant them next week to create a milkweed meadow surrounding the honey bee hive.  In the future, we plan to create a small Willamette Valley native prairie seed and install hummingbird feeders and bat boxes to nurture avian and mammalian pollinators.

100 milkweed seedlings

Milkweed seedlings await planting in WED’s Milkweed Meadow.

a rare flower: pink petals and long green stem

Cusick’s Checkermallow, a rare and endangered plant in the Pacific Northwest, thrives in the WED Pollinator Garden.


The USDA and the U.S. Department of the Interior have designated this week as National Pollinator Week. It’s a great time to celebrate pollinators and consider what you can do at home and work to protect them!

About the Author: Randy Comeleo is an Ecologist for EPA’s Western Ecology Division research lab. He works primarily with the Air, Climate, and Energy research program as a Geographic Information System Analyst.

First Impressions: an Introduction to EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program

By Nick Werner

The first day of work at a new job can be a daunting, maybe even a mildly-panic-inducing-event.  And chances are, every last one of us has experienced the first-day jitters at least a couple times in our lives and the butterflies will likely still be there for our next go around as “the new kid.”  In a lot of ways, the first day of work at a new job parallels the first day of class at a new school – you must begin to memorize the names and interests of your coworkers, learn about the type and amount of work you will be undertaking, find out what your bosses will expect from you, carefully pick where you want to sit at lunch, and so on.  However, work and school are also similar in that, after about the first week or two, you have started to find your niche in your new environment.

SBIR graphicIn my case, fittingly enough, my new environment was the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA), and my niche was the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.  The SBIR program is a competition that, for over 30 years now, has served as a source of early-stage funding for innovative small companies in the green tech field.  Internally, it is a close-knit group of dedicated people, striving towards bettering the world by ensuring that the necessary funding goes to teams that can create tangible change.  And because we are all passionate about the same topics, it has made the transition from “new kid” to “team member” a relatively seamless process.

From the moment I stepped off the elevator, I was introduced to the idea that even though EPA has a number of independent programs, they are all interconnected. Student-oriented competitions such as Science to Achieve Results fellowships and the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program provide research funding to individuals and teams of students. Some of the projects have gone from competing in P3 to becoming a small business with an EPA SBIR contract – including Lucid Connects, Environmental Fuel Research (EFR), and SimpleWater.  In fact, both Lucid and EFR will be in attendance at the SBIR National Conference, which will be held in conjunction with the Tech Connect World Innovation Conference and Expo this week.  The conference will comprise of a number of events, including many informative panel sessions – highlighted by the one with Lucid and EFR on bringing innovative environmental technologies to market.

My role in this program centers on improving organization and efficiency, so that more focus can be placed on the individuals and teams who are striving to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing our world today.  The experience and freedom to solve problems in creative ways will certainly aid me in the future as I endeavor to leave my mark on the world as well.


photo of authorAbout the Author:
Nick Werner is a student contractor working with the People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) program, and assisting with the SBIR program, both of which are in the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.  Nick is an avid sports fan who hopes to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology or marine conservation in the near future.

Fighting Bed Bugs, Mosquitos and other Pests

By Lina Younes

As the temperature warms up, we enjoy watching the revival of nature. Flowering trees, shrubs and wildlife come to life. While we welcome the return of butterflies and bees to our gardens, we definitely don’t rejoice with the arrival of other bugs, such as ants and mosquitos.

What can you do to prevent pests from taking over your living space? Well, make your home and yard as unwelcoming to pests as possible. How?  Start by removing sources of food, water and shelter. Don’t let those food crumbs and spills become pest magnets! Reduce clutter around your home and fix leaky faucets. Set up barriers so pests can’t invade your home through cracks and holes.

If in spite of your best efforts you still find these unwanted critters, you may need to take additional actions. EPA has tips for many of the most common pests.

With warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see mosquitoes earlier every year.  An important way to control mosquitos around your home is by eliminating their habitat. Mosquitoes only need a small amount of water to lay their eggs. So get rid of things in your yard like old tires, buckets and other containers where standing water will accumulate. Prevent mosquitos from entering your home with screens on your windows and doors. Also, use EPA-registered insect repellents safely to protect yourself against diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.

Being aware of potential pest problems and taking action to control these pests safely will help you and your family enjoy your environment at home and the great outdoors during the warmer months and year round.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison in EPA’s Office of Web Communications. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several federal and state government agencies over the years.

You too can be a scientist!

By Jeri Weiss

Each fall when I was a kid, my family would throw on hiking boots, pack a lunch and a thermos of hot chocolate and drive about 45 minutes to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Penn. There, we would take a short hike up the mountain, find a rocky outcrop to sit on and join the other birders – waiting, watching and counting the raptors in migration.

It never occurred to me that many years later I would be encouraging others to join the ranks of citizen scientists to help protect our planet. In fact, it never occurred to me that the 11-year-old me was a citizen scientist until this year when I startedCitizenSciencejeri organizing a workshop in Brattleboro, Vermont for citizen scientists.

“Citizen Scientists Making a World of Difference” will be held Saturday morning April 9 in Brattleboro, and is open to anyone who wants to learn more about how to be a citizen scientist.

There are so many ways to participate in research no matter where you live. Whether your passion is watching hawks, catching butterflies, chasing bugs, or even taking photographs, you can contribute to our understanding of the world.

The workshop, from 9:30 am to Noon at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden at 157 Main St. in Brattleboro, will feature more than a dozen organizations, offering people ways to help protect the water, the land, identify critters and plants in the woods and along the river banks.

The options range from helping salamanders cross the street and checking water temperature to photographing insects, birds or plants and entering the information into your smartphone. While you are there you’ll meet like-minded neighbors who are also looking to get involved. And you will learn how even the smallest contributions make a big difference, whether you have a single hour, or a few hours every week.canoejeri0985

Citizen scientists can be 8 or 88 – there are projects for everyone. In addition to information on what you can do in the field, the morning will offer hands-on activities. A water table will simulate what happens when a river is flooded, and what people can do – then and there – to make a difference. You can build a seed bomb to take away with you and use it to help stabilize stream banks that have been eroded by floods like Irene.

This workshop was organized by a committee of staff from Vermont Watershed Management Division; Town of Brattleboro; the Southeast Vermont Watershed Alliance; the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center; and Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District, as well as EPA New England. They all have something to share. You can find out more about the event here

And if you want to find out more about Hawk Mountain and join their raptors count, or see the bird count when I was there in 1971, click here.

Jeri Weiss is a drinking water specialist at EPA and helped organize the Citizens Science Workshop.

Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 24, 2015

Land_Slide Art Gallery
6 – 9 p.m.

Land __ Slide features Caroline Voagen Nelson’s and Rebecca Sherman’s dynamic representations of moving environments in a sustainable, eco-conscious era. Both artists used sustainable products and materials (including sustainable inks and wood) and no harmful chemicals during the process and production of the artworks in this exhibit.

Observing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
7 – 10 p.m.

See Jupiter, Venus and the Moon through members’ telescopes which will be set up on the plaza just north of the fountain at Lincoln Center.

Billopp Shores: The Ebb and Flow of Man and Nature
Staten Island
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This retrospective exhibition offers a glimpse of man and nature’s impact on the development of the waterfront in Conference House Park.

Saturday – July 25, 2015

Being Green at Home
Hillsborough Township, NJ
9 a.m. – Noon

Have you ever wondered what you could be doing at home to be more sustainable? Join Duke Farms staff member, Clifford Berek, and discuss three main areas where small changes make a big impact. During this program, we will discuss the four “R”s, your options when it comes to power and your impact on your local water resources.

Yoga on the Green with New York Sports Club
9:30 10:30 a.m.

Summer’s here so join us for some yoga on the Center Green in Glendale. Classes are free. If the weather is questionable or rainy the class will be moved inside NYSC. You don’t need to be a member of NYSC to participate.

Coffee & Tea | Bed-Stuy Community Forum
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This environmental, arts, and educational initiative calls on citizens to co-produce creative and open ways to share skills and showcase recent cultural and environmental initiatives happening locally in order to amplify the diverse voices and encourage future civic engagement.

NYC Poetry Festival
Governors Island
Saturday – Sunday
11 a.m.

The Poetry Society of New York will once again invite New Yorkers to come together for this two day festival to celebrate NYC’s vibrant poetry community. The event will include over 60 poetry organizations and 250 poets on its three stages; a Vendor’s Village where local booksellers, artists and craft makers will sell their wares; a beer garden sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery; healthy and delicious food options; poetic installation art throughout, the Ring of Daisies open mic; and last but not least, the Children’s Poetry Festival, complete with writing games and its own fourth, all-kids stage.

Sunday – July 26, 2015

6th Annual Butterfly Day
Lyndhurst, NJ
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The highly-anticipated butterfly festival is back!  Join us for a fun-filled day of butterfly walks and FREE kids activities. Kids activities include a scavenger hunt, face painting, a butterfly costume contest (12 and under), and butterfly crafts. Onsite experts to help identify the various butterflies and provide gardening tips.

Family Art Project: Butterfly Habitat Hats
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

See them and sketch them, flying and sipping the nectar of their favorite shrub or flowering bush. Then learn about local butterfly species and make a butterfly habitat hat.

Wave Hill Garden Highlights Walk
2 – 3 p.m.

Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights.

CEC Meeting a Win for Public Health in North America

Administrator Gina McCarthy closes the 2015 CEC Council Session in Boston.

Administrator Gina McCarthy closes the 2015 CEC Council Session in Boston.

Last week, I was thrilled to host the Canadian Environment Minister and Mexican Environment Deputy Secretary at the 22nd Regular Session of the Council for the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in my hometown of Boston.

The CEC is an organization created by the United States, Canada and Mexico to address environmental concerns in North America—because pollution doesn’t carry a passport. As Chair, I represented the U.S. Government on the Council and took the lead in discussing our future as neighbors and allies in protecting public health and the environment.

Impacts from climate change like more extreme droughts, floods, fires, and storms threaten vulnerable communities in North America and beyond. And along the way, those who have the least suffer the most. That’s why our three nations are committed to working together to tackle climate challenges. I’m looking forward to continuing our cooperation this fall in Paris as we work to bring about concrete international action on climate.

At this year’s session, the Council endorsed a new 5-year blueprint to help us tackle environmental challenges our nations face together. We’ll focus on climate change: from adaptation to mitigation; from green energy to green growth; from sustainable communities to healthy ecosystems. The plan presents our shared priorities to make the most of each other’s efforts to address environmental challenges.

Looking toward the future, we discussed the possibility of using the CEC as a way to address climate impacts on other important environmental challenges like water quantity and quality, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and oceans.

During our conversations, EPA’s Trash Free Waters program caught the interest of the other ministers on the Council. Through community outreach and education, EPA is working to reduce the amount of litter that goes into our lakes, streams and oceans. We discussed ways we could build on its success and expand it to other cities in North America.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Minister for the Environment, and Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico's Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, at the 22nd Annual Council Session of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister for the Environment, and Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico’s Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, at the 22nd Annual Council Session of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The Council also reaffirmed the CEC’s Operational Plan for 2015–2016, which is focused on producing tangible outcomes and measurable results. The plan proposes 16 new projects that bring together our experts on work like reducing maritime shipping emissions to protect our health from air pollution, and strengthening protections for monarch butterflies and pollinators.

We named a new roster of experts on traditional ecological knowledge from Canada, Mexico and the United States. Alongside science, traditional knowledge helps us understand our environment, helping us better protect it. The experts will work with the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) to advise the Council on ways to apply traditional ecological knowledge to the CEC’s operations and policy recommendations.

We also announced the third cycle of the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action grants, a program that supports hands-on projects for low-income, underserved and indigenous communities across North America. The program supports communities’ climate-related activities and encourages the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We ended the meeting with Mexico assuming chairmanship for the upcoming year. It’s an honor to work with our neighbors to address environmental challenges head-on, and to make sure North America leads on global climate action. When we do, we protect our citizens’ health, our economy, and our way of life. Learn more here.

Celebrating National Pollinator Week: Choose Native Plants

By Gayle Hubert

I discovered a few years ago that I’m a sixth generation resident of Platte County, Mo. I was living in a house unknowingly within five miles of where my third and second great-grandfathers are buried. It’s funny how we end up going back to our roots. My family’s roots grow best on our native land. So it is with my native plants.

As I was digging one day in my yard in Parkville, I marveled at the plant I was putting into the ground, back into the native Missouri soil it loves so well. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than putting these plants back home where they belong. My plants get their strength from the tan clays of the Midwest.

National Pollinator Week is June 15-21, and I felt compelled to write about one of my greatest passions: native plants. This week was designated to build awareness of the declining pollinator populations in the hope that we’ll begin to choose native plants for our landscapes, as one of many things we can do to help pollinators.

Why pollinators are important

Clockwise from lower right: Indian Pink, Wild Hairy Petunia, Caterpillar, American Beautyberry, Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower (center)

Clockwise from lower right: Indian Pink, Wild Hairy Petunia, Caterpillar, American Beautyberry, Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower (center)

Our choice of plants is even more important considering the connection they have to pollinators and to our food supply. Pollinators are responsible for one third of the food we eat, and for pollinating the plants that supply us with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like antioxidants found in tea, fruit, and vegetables. Pollinators are also responsible for the meat and dairy we eat, because those animals eat the alfalfa, clover, and other plants pollinated by bees and other pollinators.

Many pollinator populations are declining, and one reason is that the number and variety of native plants they evolved with are declining too. Pollinators grow up with native plants, use them for food and shelter, and they often prefer only natives. Some non-native varieties are less hardy and have been genetically altered so much that bees and other pollinators can’t find the pollen because they no longer recognize the structure.

Not only do native plants provide nutrients and homes to pollinators, they also help the environment by thriving without adding expensive fertilizers, chemicals, or sprinkler systems. I believe they are some of the hardiest living things on earth.

The advantages of going native

Gayle’s first native garden in its third year, with her son Nate

Gayle’s first native garden in its third year, with her son Nate

I’ve witnessed their amazing powers to return to full bloom after being mowed down by mistake, eaten by deer and rabbits, and dug up by dogs. They’ve withstood drought, killing frosts, subzero cold, and scorching heat. They wait patiently until floodwaters disappear and stand tall downstream of a raging current. They can be trampled, transplanted, pummeled by hail and still thrive in some of the driest, hardest, and most compact soils on this planet – the clay soil of the Heartland. Their strength is in their roots.

I started gardening with natives at our first home in a corner of the backyard that I had no idea what to do with. The plot sat for a couple of years until I attended an event at a local nursery, where I bought my first native flower seed that began my garden. I was hooked on natives from that day on.

Gayle’s current native garden

Gayle’s current native garden

I was in awe of every bloom because I’d never seen these plants before. Each one had its own unique character and beauty. And then, to my astonishment, came dozens of butterflies, along with hummingbirds, Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, Indigo Buntings, and many more winged visitors. Native plants will lure critters you never knew existed.

Ten years later, we moved to a new home that was a challenge because of the strict covenants and neighbors’ preferences to manicured green lawns. However, I wanted to share my knowledge and designed my native flower beds in areas where the grass doesn’t grow. I even incorporated non-natives into the scheme.

It’s been 12 years since I installed that garden. To my amazement, I still get plenty of compliments about my native garden from passers-by. I‘m constantly adding and moving things around, but isn’t that what gardening is all about?

Create your own natural, native garden

I encourage you to incorporate a few native plant species into your own landscape. You can delight in the same wonderful blooms, joy, and diversity these plants have given me, and at the same time, give the pollinators the plants they grew up with. And if you don’t own land, you can still grow them in pots and give them to friends and family to place in their landscapes.

There are many native plant varieties that substitute nicely for the familiar non-natives we see every day, and will offer more value to you and the ecosystem. For example, Serviceberry or Dogwoods will swap for the Bradford Pears, and besides spring blooms, they display additional fall color and are less susceptible to ice damage. Golden Currant can replace your Forsythia, with thousands of yellow blooms and a wonderful clove fragrance! Not only that, it blooms in March when little else does.

Tuck a few new native plants here and there among existing non-natives, like I’ve done. You can use prepared garden designs or design your own hummingbird garden, Monarch waystation, or pollinator garden. Have fun with it!

Choose a native plant as a substitute for a non-native. They’re good for pollinators, the environment, and your wallet!

Helpful links:

About the Author: Gayle Hubert serves as an Environmental Scientist with EPA Region 7’s Air and Waste Management Division. She is currently assigned to the Waste Enforcement and Materials Management Program. Gayle received her bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Missouri.