How Did National Pollinator Week Begin?
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the health of pollinators, in 2007 the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” to highlight the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations.
Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration, promoting the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies.
While it's great to celebrate all the wonderful things pollinators can do for us and the ecosystem, we'd like to take a moment to take a closer look at the underlying issues surrounding the serious decline of pollinator populations and propose ways each of us can make a difference.
The wild sweet potato bee (Cemolobus ipomoeae) was once most common in Illinois,yet has not been collected here since 2001 and before that had not been regularly collected in the state since the late 1970s. Many of the counties in which it was once prevalent are now expanding towns or agricultural areas. With its habitat continuing to be lost to development, this unique and once ubiquitous insect is now rarely seen. (Photo credit: Keng-Lou James Hung)
In 2017, The Center for Biological Diversity published a systematic review of the status of all 4,337 North American and Hawaiian native bees. This incredibly comprehensive review revealed that:
Read the full study.
Many of us are already aware of the decline in monarch butterfly populations, but when you put numbers to it, it's a staggering 90% decline in the last 20 years.
The Problem is Bigger Than Bees
According to the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to promoting the health of pollinators, more than 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals. Most (more than 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, and moths, in addition to bees.
Birds are vanishing too. In 2019, Science journal published the first-ever comprehensive study of net population changes in birds in the U.S. and Canada. The bottom line - nearly 3 billion birds gone since 1970. Read the full study.
According to the Illinois Natural History Survey, of Illinois’ eight threatened and endangered mammal species, six are bats. While bats in Illinois are not known to be pollinators, bats in warmer climates do play an important role in pollination.
Nevertheless, bats face a myriad of challenges in Illinois, such as white-nose syndrome (a fungal disease which disturbs the bat's hibernation causing eventual starvation) and habitat loss. Consequently, some bat populations in the state have declined drastically in the last decade, making conservation and management efforts essential.
Learn more about the endangered and threatened species in Illinois.
In early June, the corporate team from Pembina and Aux Sable joined us, along with Forest Preserve staff, to plant a variety of pollinator-pro native plants like wild bergamot, foxglove, wild geranium, purple giant hyssop, early sunflower, and rosinweed around the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center's campus. Not only will these blooms provide more habitat and floral resources, but they will also help teach pollinator education and provide for some amazing views in the coming years.
What You Can Do!
Let's be honest. The news coming out of the scientific community about pollinators isn't great. There's work to be done and changes to make if we want to live on this planet in harmony. Here's a few suggestions and ideas for you to incorporate.
Make Room for Pollinators
Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of pollinator decline. Adding natural habitat works and even small spaces can make a difference. If you build it properly, they will come!
If you'd like to add native plants to your garden, The Nature Foundation of Will County can help! Come out to our Pollinator Pop-Up Native Plant Sale at Pollinator Party, this weekend on Saturday, June 24 from 11am to 3pm at the Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville or check out our Summer Blooms Online Native Plant Sale going on now.
Reduce or Eliminate the Impact of Pesticides
Along with habitat loss, the ubiquitous use of pesticides has a significant impact on pollinator populations. Check out the Pesticides Learning Center on the Pollinator Partnership website to learn more about the interactions between pollinators and pesticides. Visit The Xerces Society for information on rethinking pesticide use in your yard and garden.
Support Pollinator Conservation in Your Local Parks and Forest Preserves
Natural areas like those in our local Will County forest preserves provide protected spaces for our flora and fauna. In many cases, these protected natural areas are the only remaining habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
Your support comes in many forms.
You can become a donor and take an active role in supporting programs, projects and initiatives that improve the quality and biodiversity of the natural areas in our Will County forest preserves while at the same time support the work of the volunteers that make it happen!
You can volunteer at many of the Forest Preserve's volunteer habitat management events and help restore our natural areas so pollinators can thrive.
You can support our native plant sales and other fundraising events like our Summer Blooms Gathering and Summer Blooms Online Raffle and help us raise funds to support the work of volunteers as well as restoration projects in our forest preserves.
This beautiful Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly is sipping nectar from an ironweed plant. Ironweed is a host plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly and is listed by the Xerces Society as having special value to native bees. Swallowtail butterflies also enjoy milkweed and Joe Pye weed. Shop our online Summer Blooms sale and order your pollinator-pro plants today!
If you've lived on this planet for a good amount of time and have observed nature over the years and decades, you know things have changed.
Benjamin Vogt, author, wild garden designer and advocate for sustainable urban design for wildlife, brings this point home. According to him, there are 50% fewer birds than 40 years ago.
Kids today will see 35% fewer butterflies and moths than their parents did 40 years ago, and 28% fewer birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish.
Less than 3% of the original tallgrass prairie remains, making it more threatened than the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests combined. 70% of all U.S. grasslands may be gone by 2100.
By 2050 over 70% of Americans will live in urban areas, places with greatly diminished green space.
It really is time to make a difference and there are so many ways you can pollinators and other wildlife! For more even more information and resources on helping pollinators, check out these websites:
National Wildlife Federation: 10 Ways to Save Pollinators
The Xerces Society: Bring Back the Pollinators Campaign
Heather Holm: Free Pollinator Plant Lists, Fact Sheets and Posters
US Fish & Wildlife Service: How You Can Help Pollinators
Save Our Monarchs!
You’ve heard the saying, "bigger is better." Well, sometimes you need smaller, especially when it comes to native trees, some of which can grow 80’ tall and just as wide! So, what’s a person to do? You want to help nature by planting native trees, but you just don’t have the space for that majestic oak tree or a towering hickory. We've got options!
Today, we’d like to share with you just a few of the smaller native trees that are great for planting in parkways, small yards and other situations were space may be limited. Each of these trees are native to Illinois and they typically grow less than 25’ tall at maturity and have similar spread.
SERVICEBERRY Amelanchier species
Sometimes classified as a tree, sometimes a multi-stemmed shrub, sometimes both, Serviceberry is an ornamental and attractive native tree that's 20’ tall and 15’ wide at maturity. It has delicate white flowers in spring and green foliage in summer which turns orange-red in fall. It also has small fruits which birds and other wildlife enjoy. It’s also a pollinator hot spot in the spring. Medium growth rate. Prefers rich soil and sheltered sites. Does well in shade. Native to Illinois. Attractive for all seasons as a specimen tree, in mass plantings or in naturalized settings.
BLUE BEECH (AMERICAN HORNBEAM) Carpinus caroliana
This is one of the most adaptable trees. It is an ideal tree for screening or as part of a border planning. At 25’ tall x 25’ wide, Blue Beech has interesting smooth, gray, fluted bark and dark green leaves that turn red-orange or yellow in the fall. The flowers are in the form of catkins and are not highly visible. The fruit hangs in 4-6 inch clusters. The tree is highly adaptable to different soils and pH. In full sun it will grow in a formal, upright character, but if grown in shade it will have a more loose, informal shape. Native to Illinois as an understory tree in the forest, preferring dappled shade. Best in naturalized settings and adaptable to many urban conditions. Blue Beech is part of the birch family.
EASTERN REDBUD Cercis canadensis
The Eastern Redbud is a very attractive, native tree with small purple flowers that cover its branches in spring. The flower color is vibrant and bursts onto the spring landscape. The tree is 25’ tall x 25’ wide at maturity and can be single stem tree or multi-stem shrub. Medium growth rate. Adaptable to sunny or shady conditions. Some disease problems limit its longevity and if planted in poorly drained soils it's subject to verticillium wilt. Verticillium is a soil-inhabiting fungus. Redbud can have occasional dead branches as well. It’s best planted in shrub borders, in naturalized settings or as highlight plants in large beds.
PAGODA DOGWOOD Cornus alternifolia
The Pagoda Dogwoods grows 20’ tall and 20’ wide at maturity. It displays very beautiful horizontal branching and white flowers in the spring. Birds relish the blue-black fruit in August. The Pagoda likes a few hours of sun in the morning, protection from the west, and moist soil. Slow to medium growth. If planted in the right place, the Pagoda is an ideal ornamental specimen. Used in naturalized areas, borders and under utility lines. Many insects visit the flowers, including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies. Moth and butterfly caterpillars eat the foliage.
COMMON WITCHHAZEL Hamamelis virginiana
Sometimes classified as a tree, sometimes a shrub, Witch-hazel grows to be 25’ tall x 10’ wide. The yellow, fragrant flowers of the plant bloom the latest (September-December) of all the shrubs. Blooms usually continue after the leaves fall. Green leaves turn yellow in fall. Medium growth rate. Prefers fine, moist, well-drained soil. Somewhat tolerant of urban conditions. Full sun or shade. Avoid very dry sites. Native to Illinois. For naturalized locations, borders and for under utility lines. The extract witch hazel is derived from the bark and roots. In the fall, the seed capsules snap and eject the seed 5-20 feet!
You can find all these trees and more at our Oaktober! Native Tree & Shrub Sale going on now. But, don’t delay, our sale ends Sunday, October 18. Place your order online and then pick it up on Saturday, October 24, 2020 between 10a and 2p at the Sugar Creek Administration Center, 17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet, IL 60433.
To do your research: https://www.possibilityplace.com/plant-finder
To place an order: https://www.willcountynature.org/oaktober.html
Call JULIE before you dig!
Just the right combination of native trees and shrubs can add serious curb appeal, support wildlife and add year-round interest with spring blooms, vibrant summer greens, and striking displays of fall color. We've put together a few design tips to help you get started.
Use trees and shrubs as focal plants - Think of your focal plants, or anchor plants, as the backdrop to your landscaping. You want your anchor plants to fill the space, but not overwhelm it in a few years. There are many beautiful native trees and shrubs you can choose from whether you are looking to add flowering plants, fall color, or pollinator hotspots to your foundation plantings. A great way to find plants that meet your gardening criteria is to use Possibility Place Nursery’s Plant Finder Tool.
Pay attention to scale – If you have a large home in the country or township with ample space, you have limitless possibilities when it comes to using native trees and shrubs. Generally, the larger the home and surrounding acreage, the greater the scale and size of trees and shrubs you can use. However, if you’re in a neighborhood within city or village limits, you don’t have that kind of space. Look for trees that grow to be around 20 feet tall rather than ones that will grow to be 40 or 50 feet, plus. The same is true of shrubs. Some of the larger native shrubs grow to be over 15 feet tall and equally as wide! If you have a smaller house and yard, think smaller, more compact. Select shrubs that are in the 3 to 7 foot range with similar spread.
Pick carefully – Regardless of the size of your yard, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is selecting a tree or shrub that will outgrow its space once it matures. Do some research ahead of time and pay close attention to the mature size of the tree or shrub especially when you are using them in your foundation plantings. You don’t want to plant something that will eventually grow to block windows, overwhelm paths, or crowd your entryway. Do your research using Possibility Place Nursery's Plant Finder Tool.
Think in layers – Once you’ve selected your focal plants, you can add other native plants in layers. When designing a foundation planting, it’s important to layer the heights of the plants. You want the tallest ones (your anchor plants) in back next to the house, and then layer each row down so that the shortest plants are in the front. The smaller plants in front can be a selection of native perennials that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. We'll be hosting our Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale again in the spring and you'll be able to select from over 100 native plants to compliment your foundation plantings and provide critical habitat for our pollinators.
Enhance what you have - If you don't have any native plants right now, don't worry. One of the best ways to begin using native plants is to slowly transition them into your existing gardens or foundation plantings. Add a few things each year and see what works best for your growing situation. You don't have to get rid of everything just because its not native and many gardeners that use native plants still keep some of their favorite hybrids.
A few other tips –
Possibility Place Nursery Plant Finder Tool
National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder
The Nature Foundation of Will County
17540 W. Laraway Rd.
Joliet, IL 60433
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