Orgs, Books, Newsletters
Educational organizations to learn from and/or support:
- Ecological Landscape Alliance They describe themselves as a “vibrant community of landscape professionals” but everyone is welcome. They share a lot of information via informative articles, events and conferences. Lots to learn here, even without a membership.
- Grow Native Massachusetts A Massachusetts nonprofit that hosts and records their winter Evenings with Experts. Their speakers come from across the Northeast US and their video archive dates back to 2015, all still useful information.
- Homegrown National Park’s - Tallamy’s Hub Entomologist/author Doug Tallamy posts episodic essays. His books, recent articles and many of his lecture recordings are found here, too. The main HNP site is new and growing, though still a work still in progress.
- National Wildlife Federation Their National Wildlife Magazine and newsletters regularly feature informative and timely articles on creating and maintaining natural habitat with native plants to support diverse insects.
- New Directions in the American Landscape Larry Weaner has been organizing annual conferences since 1990 for landscape architects and designers on his science based, ecological approach to landscape design. He views this work as managing succession over time to sustainable native plant communities. Since COVID, he and his staff have brought together top experts for online programming making it even more accessible and year round.
- New Jersey Native Plant Society This is a highly informative website from learning native plants to how to use them successfully in our landscapes. We share most of their native plants and some of their warmer species will be moving northwards; a plant preview.
- Wild Ones They host free webinars and provide popular downloadable Native Garden Plans for different areas of the country designed by professionals. Membership allows access to an informative quarterly journal. One of the oldest nonprofits helping homeowners grow more native plants.
- Wild Seed Project A Maine nonprofit providing helpful info on returning more native plants to our roadsides, cities and yards. Also sells regionally sourced seeds.
- Xerces Society A national organization that has worked on insect conservation at all land management levels from natural areas, range and agricultural acreage (biggest impact!) to urban areas, roadside right-of-ways to yards and gardens with their recent merger with BeeCity USA. They produce multiple useful publications, e.g. Pollinator Friendly Parks.
- Best habitat garden handbook: The Pollinator Victory Garden by Kim Eierman! The author presents an engaging, well-researched summary of everything you need to know to start ecologically gardening and support pollinating insects. Lots of photos and helpful lists and reminders.
- Best book of plant lists for Vermont’s diverse natural communities: Wetland, Woodland, Wildland by Elizabeth Thompson, Eric Sorenson, Robert Zaino. Plants care about their site conditions and as a result tend to live in predictable “collaborations”. Learn more about the natural areas near you, similar to your site, and imitate these relationships in your habitat garden.
- Best guide to restoring natural communities of (edible!) native plants: Wild Plant Culture by Jared Rosenbaum is a well researched and useful source for learning how to “see” a site and its plant communities including site lists of the edible and medicinal plants. In addition to his botanical expertise, he researched indigenous knowledge for the plant bios and his pragmatic site restoration guidance.
- Heather Holm’s books on our native bees, wasps and their preferred native plants:
- Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants. 2014. Her first book and a great starter book to start learning the multiple insect/plant relationships. She’s a great science writer, takes amazing photos, incorporates maps and useful diagrams.
- Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide: Includes Tree, Shrub, and Perennial Plant Profiles for the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast Region. 2017. Our copy of this award winning book’s spine is broken from so much use! Learn about nesting strategies, times of year each group of bees is active (usually once a season, some are twice!), and their preferred nectar, pollen and oil plant sources.
- Wasps: Their Biology, Diversity and Role as Beneficial Insects and Pollinators of Native Plants. 2021. To learn about the amazing predatory behaviors of wasps (some species anesthetize prey insects to leave in the individual nest chambers as “fresh food” for each egg!!), read this book with her amazing photos, succinct text, maps, quick guide, tables that track which wasps nectar at which native plants. Fascinating!
Our favorite e-newsletter/blogs (in addition to those from the educational organizations above):
- Pulling It All Together:
- The Humane Gardener by author and habitat consultant, Nancy Lawson, zooms in to the tiniest details of plants, wildlife, natural communities or zooms out to frame the larger ecological patterns and relationships. She synthesizes diverse research reports into compelling essays.
- Plant Culture:
- Indigescapes in Ohio specializes in Native Plant Agriculture and has an informative FaceBook site of food plant profiles with a slightly warmer climate focus..
- Rebecca McMackin’s Grow Like Wild newsletter. She’s a hugely engaging speaker, writer and is Director of Horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park in NY, though she’s stepping aside for a year to pursue a prestigious Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
- Wild Plant Culture blog is written by Jared Rosenbaum, a botanist and ecological restoration practitioner in NJ. He writes informative posts featuring different native plants, especially the edible ones! He also creates engaging short YouTube plant bios, Rooted Plant Videos.
- Insects and Other Wildlife:
- Naturally Curious with Mary Holland. Mary writes periodic short naturalist posts that include a photo. Several help us understand when those “seed eating” or “berry eating” birds do actually feed on insects, too!
- Tufts Pollinator Initiative newsletter. Tufts scientists and students plant and survey pollinator gardens, lead Pollinator Safaris and educate.Their social media presence is timely and informative, too.
- Vermont Center for Ecostudies blog updates us on their latest research with native bees, other insects, bird migration amongst other topics. They have an amazing team of conservation biologists and research associates!
- Practicalities of Habitat Gardening Mar 2022 1 hour
- Grow Wild’s Kate Kruesi explains Bringing Habitat Home
- Creating and Managing Habitat for Native Bees Oct 2022 1 hour
- Insect and native plant expert Heather Holm provides an expert summary.
- EcoBeneficial educational videos
- Kim Eiermann, author of Pollinator Victory Garden, provides some short informative videos amongst a large library of video.
- Native Plant Society of New Jersey’s YouTube channel of their recorded talks.
- Bee and Wasp Videos by Heather Holm her YouTube channel
- Ohio State U Bee Lab 2022 webinars 1 hour
- Doug Tallamy, Heather Holm and others’ lectures
- Ohio State U Bee Lab webinars from previous years
- More Doug Tallamy, Heather Holm and other experts’ lectures.
- Xerces/Bee City USA Bring Back the Pollinators video 8 minutes
- Xerces Society YouTube videos
- Beyond the Honey Bee: Wild Bees on the VT Landscape by Spencer Hardy 1.5 hours
Importance of Geology
Geology influences soil, which determines natural communities. Soils in Burlington and the Champlain Valley are strongly influenced by the history of glacial retreat following the last ice age. In the not-so-distant geologic past, the entirety of the Champlain Valley was underneath the massive freshwater glacial Lake Vermont and later the Champlain Sea arm of the Atlantic before becoming Lake Champlain.
Sands and clays were deposited in layers around the bedrock outcrops that form the basis of our soils today. The larger rivers, like the Winooski, periodically disturbed this layering, adding localized deposits after major flood events along their lower reaches. Below is a map of the complex surficial deposits of sand and clay deposited in the Chittenden County area along the lower Winooski River.
To learn more, check out this talk by Norwich University geologist, George Springston, Vermont's Glacial Lakes and Geological History, presented at North Branch Nature Center for a deeper understanding.
The map was created at Vermont’s Natural Resources Atlas website. Look for the Layers tab at the bottom to explore the options.
Grow Wild Info Seekers Newsletter Archive
More on Plants
Specialized Plant Lists
Plant Lists by Insects or Birds:
- Bumble Bee Plant List - Robert J. Gegear
- Creating a Pollinator Garden for Specialist Bees - Cornell
- Native Plant and Pollinator Interactions Chart - Prairie Nursery
- Pollen Specialist Bees and Host Plants for Pollen Specialist Bees - Jarrod Fowler and Sam Droege
- Recommended Plantings for Migratory Songbird Habitat Management - Susan B. Smith and Scott R. McWilliams
- Wasp Plant List Northeast - Heather Holm
Plant Lists for Tough Sites:
- Native Plants for Urban Conditions - Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Native Replacements for Invasives - Wild Seed Project
- Planting Median Greenway Strips - Wild Seed Project
- Schoolyard Planting Ideas - Wild Seed Project
- Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention - Cornell
Other Plant Lists:
- Native Lawn Alternative Species - Norcross Wildlife Foundation
- Prairie Species of New England - Prairie Nursery
- Sedges for the Mid-Atlantic - Mt. Cuba Center
The trouble with lawns:
- Doug Tallamy says it best in this article from Homegrown National Park: Lawns fail at all four universal ecological landscape goals. They don't (1) support a diversity of pollinators throughout the season, (2) provide energy to move up through the food web, (3) manage watershed footprint, nor (4) remove carbon from the atmosphere.
- Few of the flowering plants encouraged by the ‘No Mow May’ initiative, such as the dandelion, support North American native bee populations. This, and more, is explained by Sheila Colla (York University) in this article from Rewilding Magazine.
Ecologically sound “lawn-like” alternatives:
- Scientists in the Chicago area are researching plots of different lawn grasses and low prairie and meadow species. Because Chicago and the Champlain Valley are in the same ecoregion, these findings will be transferable.
- This visually attractive affiliate website by scientist/artist Liz Kozik distills this research into easily readable graphic stories. Check out all six tabs in the upper right corner!
- Here’s a useful graphic that compares the five lawn alternatives that are being tested.
- The Cornell Botanic Gardens has been exploring plants and natural communities similar to those in the Champlain Valley at their native lawn demonstration site.
- Wild Seed Project’s Anna Fialkof offers an overview of established lawn alternative sites as well as a list of useful native plant species for New England.
Check out our Where to Add Habitat section, this clever New York Times video: How To Fall Out of Love With Your Lawn, and Native Plant Trust’s Replace Your Lawn drop-down tab for more tips.
Prairie Plants in Vermont
Pre-European contact, this region of the continent was primarily covered in forests, except for small grassland patches along wetlands, river and lake shores. Following contact, most of the region was cleared for agriculture and development, and seeded with Eurasian lawn, pasture and hay grasses. Many of these pastures and fields have naturally reforested over the past century as their agricultural use has declined. However, since current landowners may seek to retain some of these sunny open spaces, it is worth noting that these areas can be planted with appropriate native species to create new “Champlain Valley prairies”.
Here, you’ll find a description of our ecoregion, some expected climate migration patterns, and useful explanations and relevant plant lists from nearby regions.
From Native Plant Trust Garden Plant Finder
Our ecoregion: The Champlain Valley is in the Eastern Great Lakes/Hudson Lowlands ecoregion, shown in maroon on this map from the Native Plant Trust.
Notice how the Champlain Valley is part of a larger region along the St. Lawrence River watershed that extends west into Ohio along Lake Erie, thus connecting us to the northern prairie plains and plants. Its location at the eastern and northern edge of warmer climate plant communities makes the Champlain Valley home to unusual plant diversity.
Here is the full EPA Ecoregion Level III map, and here are descriptions of the Level IV Ecoregions of New England.
Climate migration in motion:
This Migrations in Motion map, created by The Nature Conservancy, models likely bird, mammal and amphibian migration as climate change alters habitat. Our ecoregion’s connection with the Great Lake and coastal zones creates corridors for plants and animals as they move eastwards and northwards; therefore we should look west and south for current models of our potential future natural communities.
- North American Prairie Species of New England - Ecological Landscape Alliance - Prairie Nursery founder Neil Diboll () explains prairie species of the Northeast.
- Wild Ridge Nursery’s Jared Rosenbaum gives reasoned and inspiring rationale for creating diverse grassland natural communities in lawn, field, roof top, etc. sites by planting species that could have moved here 8000 years ago via the Prairie Peninsula during a warming period.
- An article from the British Ecological Society in the Journal of Applied Ecology explains The differences between rewilding and restoring an ecologically degraded landscape - (spoiler alert, it has to do with whether plant selections are made from past or suspected future conditions).
- An Atlantic Monthly article, "Trees Are Overrated" explains how grassland communities are being overlooked and undervalued, especially the increasingly rare fragments of "old growth grasslands" due to our cultural and colonial bias for trees vs. "scrubby degraded grassland". Grasslands host an equivalent level of biodiversity as old growth forests, and are similar carbon sinks.
Prairie Plant List Models:
For those who aspire to create prairie plant diversity that matches soil conditions on our sunny sites, we’ve assembled plant lists for prairie grasslands in our ecoregional-neighbor states: Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The latter states are along the southern edge of the recent glaciation that forced nearly the same suite of plant species (and their insect partners) southwards then back northwards with the advance and retreat of the Wisconsin Glaciation.
- Within our Ecoregions:
- Plant Communities of New Jersey by B. R. Collins and K. H. Anderson is in book form.
- New York natural communities: some of the relevant grasslands include
- Floodplain grassland
- Hempstead Plains grassland (most similar/extension of midwestern sand prairie and includes our rare maritime species and New York natural prairie communities “showy garden” species)
- Pitch Pine Heath Barrens
- Successional northern sandplain grassland
- Ohio’s black oak savannah/midwest sand barren and lake plain prairie are the most relevant and along the western edge of our Eastern Great Lakes/Hudson Lowlands ecoregion.
- Pennsylvania plant Terrestrial (upland) communities. Scroll through the Herbaceous Openings for grassland lists.
- Within our Wisconsin Glaciation edge:
- Michigan prairie communities:
- Dry Prairie Group of communities
- MI dry sand prairie for sandy soils
- Wet Prairie Group of communities
- MI lakeplain wet prairie and MI lakeplain wet-mesic prairie for clay soils
- Dry Prairie Group of communities
- Minnesota prairie communities:
- Wisconsin natural communities; some grassland examples. Note “detailed community description” link on each page.
- Dry prairie
- Dry mesic prairie
- Mesic prairie
- Sand prairie
- Wet-mesic prairie where there are heavier soils (higher percentage of silts and clays)
- For partial shade, savannah type sites like our suburban lots, check these: Oak barrens, Oak Openings, and Oak Woodland.
- Michigan prairie communities:
- Additional useful plant list resources:
- Midwestern Plant Communities - a text that includes a 705 page appendix of plant community descriptions. Prairie community descriptions start at page 661.
- Loess Hills Plants Database and its key is an impressively comprehensive plant list with germination codes, light and soil moisture needs, height, color, bloom time, faunal users, etc.
- Tallgrass Prairie Center’s ‘Designing Seed Mixes - helpful guidelines on designing species diversity.
- The Prairie Ecologist’s Blog is written by Chris Helzer, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Science in Nebraska, who evaluates and captures lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and shares those lessons with other land managers.
Learn Seedling ID
When plants grow in suitable site conditions, they will start to disperse their seeds. When these seeds start to germinate, we need to learn how to identify their seedlings so we don’t weed them out by mistake! Here’s a spreadsheet of seed and seedling ID resources that a Chicago Botanic Garden intern assembled. A few resources stood out:
- Illinois’ Morton Arboretum provides photos of nearly 60 of our common sunny prairie plants.
- Eastern Illinois University’s Prairie Restoration site has photos of not only the seedlings, but the seeds and fruits.
- Iowa Department of Transportation Prairie Seedling Guide has about 80 species including grasses.
More on Insects
Info on Bees
Bees are fascinating! Check out our vetted resources about native bees:
- NEW! Pollen Specialist Native Bees Story Map - Heather Holm helps us understand what pollen specialism means with close up photos and video.
- Bees 101: Buzzworthy Facts - This succinct article expands on knowledge beyond honey bees.
- More on Leafcutter Bees - Leafcutter bees cut circles out of leaves for their nests and have cute upturned abdomens. There are iNaturalist projects tracking what plants they use to analyze plant preferences.
Insect Guides and Comprehensive Lists:
- Spencer Hardy's Bees of Vermont - This is Vermont’s first bee survey, a collaboration between Vermont Center for Ecostudies and Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Explore specialist bees by host plant and habitat and learn the “most wanted” rare ones. Submit to iNaturalist to help this research.
- NEW! Bees of the Northeast - This is both a teaching and ID guide written for beginner to restoration practitioners and land managers!
- Tufts Pollinator Initiative's Pollinator Guides - These simple, beautiful field guides include bumble bees, hover flies and butterflies.
- UNH Rehan Lab Bee and Plant Guide - This comprehensive pdf reviews important bee ecology, and it’s easy to read on a mobile phone.
- Jarrod Fowler’s Pollen Specialist Bee/phenology/host plant list - Spectacular information and photos of pollen specialist bees which are roughly 25% of eastern North America’s 770 native bee species.
We’ve shamelessly copied Rebecca McMackin’s excellent description of fireflies from her Grow Like Wild - Buck Moon #11 newsletter.
Here’s Rebecca’s words:
I got to go on NPR and talk about Fireflies!! It was awesome. BBP Gardener Pawel Pieluszyński and I spoke about their life cycles, behavior, and how to encourage them in the landscape. We didn’t have time to get into everything so I’ll try to list a few tips below.
- Leave the leaves and wet spots: Fireflies lay eggs on moist soil and plant material. They live as soil-dwelling glow worms for a year or two before taking to the skies.
- Plant native plants: fireflies are carnivorous as larvae. They eat snails and worms, all the animals attracted to a robust garden ecosystem. And adults sometimes nectar on milkweed.
- Don’t use pesticides or fertilizers: Fireflies spend most of their lives in the soil. So anything you put down to kill grubs or “pests” will kill them as well. And synthetic fertilizers break down the basis of the soil food-web.
- Reduce nighttime lighting: Like many animals, light pollution is a major problem for fireflies, as they can’t see each other’s flashes with competing lights. Lights can be put on motion sensors or timers. Shields can be put on bulbs so they only shine where needed. And bulbs should always be yellow LED, rather than white.
- Enjoy them! Seriously, this is magical stuff. How crazy are we as a culture that we don’t all spend these nights on picnic blankets drinking wine and watching the show? They return to the same spots to flash each year. And you can impress your friends by learning to read their flashes and relate the sordid tale of the femme fatal fireflies, luring males to a grisly end.