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June Native Plant of the Month: Hairy Rattleweed

HAIRY RATTLEWEED

Baptisia arachnifera

Hairy Rattleweed is an endangered plant now only found in two counties in Georgia, Brantley and Wayne, and nowhere else in the world.  It is a pine flatwood perennial and is named for the white, cobwebby hairs that cover the stems.

Most of the pine flatwoods habitats that support Hairy Rattleweed have been converted to pine plantations. As the pines mature, they block sunlight from reaching the ground and without sunlight Hairy Rattleweed cannot flower and reproduce.

Hairy Rattleweed has an extensive root system that helps it survive fire, which once was a frequent occurrence in pine flatwoods. Fire is needed to keep down competition from shrubs, which will also shade out the plant. It is a “tumbleweed” type of plant – seeds are dispersed when stems break off at ground level and are blown, tumbleweed-style, across the ground.

 

 

Only 13 populations of Hairy Rattleweed have been seen in the last 20 years and only one of these is protected on conservation land.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is growing this plant and working to ensure its survival. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.

Commitment to historic land preservation and education earns national award for UGA donors

Longtime UGA supporters and alumni Craig and Diana Barrow were awarded the prestigious Margaret Douglas Medal by The Garden Club of America (GCA) for their commitment and service to conservation education at their Wormsloe estate near Savannah, Georgia.

The national award was given to the Barrows in recognition of their “thoughtful stewardship and generous donation of both land and resources,” said Dede Petri, president of The Garden Club of America.

The Barrows are the ninth generation to live at Wormsloe, located on the Isle of Hope outside of Savannah, since the property was claimed and developed by Craig Barrow’s ancestor Noble Jones in the mid-1730s. Wormsloe is the oldest property in Georgia to be held continuously by the same family.

Wormsloe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. That same year, the Barrow family donated 822 acres of the property to The Nature Conservancy, which transferred the land to the state of Georgia to be managed by the Department of Natural Resources as a historic site. The Barrows retained Wormsloe House and the surrounding 50 acres of the property.

In 2007, the Barrows founded the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History to conserve the undeveloped land on the estate and to promote research and education programs there.

More than a dozen units across the university have engaged in research and education at Wormsloe. Among them are the College of Environment and Design, the Odum School of Ecology, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

In 2013, the Barrows, through their Wormsloe Foundation, donated 15 acres of the property to the University of Georgia to establish the Center for Research and Education at Wormsloe (CREW). The center provides opportunities for UGA faculty and students to study cultural history and historical land use practices, among other topics, under the direction of Sarah Ross, a member of the faculty of the College of Environment and Design and executive director of CREW. In 2016, UGA dedicated two new cabins built on the property to house visiting students and faculty. The cabins were partially funded by the Wormsloe Foundation as well.

 

 

In its recognition of the Barrows, The Garden Club of America highlighted CREW’s research with 400 varieties of vegetables in the UGA Heirloom Demonstration Garden at Wormsloe. Some of these plants, such as peanuts, blueberries and cotton, are leaders in Georgia’s robust agriculture industry. Heirloom vegetable trials on site contribute to profitability for coastal Georgia’s family farms by measuring plant productivity, pest and disease resistance, and flood and drought tolerance as well as documenting the preferred flavor profiles.

GCA also recognized the Barrows’ significant backing of landscape stewardship, habitat restoration and sustainable agriculture research on their historic property—all supported largely by UGA programs on site. In addition, GCA cited the significance of the transdisciplinary approach to education provided by CREW.

“Craig and Diana are certainly deserving of this national recognition,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The University of Georgia is grateful for its enduring partnership with the Barrow family and the many ways they are helping us to expand our reach and impact across the state of Georgia and beyond.”

Craig Barrow credits Ross and College of Environment and Design Dean Dan Nadenicek for the work that led to the award.

“Diana and I were overwhelmed with humility and appreciation to be the recipients of such a prestigious award,” Barrow said. “However, we well know that the vision, leadership and hard work of Sarah Ross were largely responsible, as was the work of Dr. Dan Nadenicek and many others at the University of Georgia. The Margaret Douglas Medal not only endorses the university’s work at Wormsloe but also conveys a huge message of support for our many programs.”

Craig Barrow’s ties to UGA are deep. His great-great-great-grandfather, Alonzo Church, was president of the University of Georgia from 1829 to 1859, the longest-serving UGA president in history. Ten generations of the family have attended UGA. In 2010, the Barrows were named Family of the Year by the UGA Alumni Association.

Craig and Diana Barrow were recognized in 2013 as members of UGA’s 1785 Society, which acknowledges donors who have given more than $1 million in cumulative gifts to the university. In addition to the initiatives and research associated with CREW, the Barrows’ support has benefitted the UGA Libraries, the University of Georgia Press, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Craig Barrow is the current chair of the University of Georgia Press Advisory Council. Diana Barrow is a member of the Board of Advisors for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The Wormsloe State Historic Site is open to visitors and includes a museum and theater, picnic area, gift shop and walking trails. Visitors enter the site through an allée of live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Events there include exhibitions of the tools and skills of colonial Georgians, led by demonstrators in period dress. Guided tours are offered daily. For more information, go to http://gastateparks.org/Wormsloe.

Writer: Kelly Simmons, simmonsk@uga.edu, 706-542-2512

Contact: Sarah Ross, svross@uga.edu, 912-414-2940

May Native Plant of the Month: Canby’s Dropwart

Canby’s Dropwart

Oxypolis canbyi

Canby’s Dropwort is an important endangered perennial. It’s essential to the lifecycle of the black swallowtail butterflies who lay their eggs on the stems. When the larvae (caterpillars) emerge, they eat the stems and leaves before forming cocoons. These stems can be up to 5 feet tall and the flowers are in flat-topped clusters at the top of the stems, with many tiny white, five-petaled flowers.

Due to loss of habitat from conversion to pine plantations and agriculture by ditching, draining, and destroying wetlands, Canby’s Dropwort is only found in small populations in the Coastal Plain of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. About 15 populations have been seen in the last 17 years in Georgia’s Burke, Dooly, Jenkins, Lee and Screven counties. Only six of these populations are on conservation lands.

 

 

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is working with this plant and by sponsoring Canby’s Dropwort you can greatly impact the garden’s work to increase numbers and chance of survival. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.

 

Connect to Protect garden grows in downtown Athens

 

This fall, downtown Athens gained some biodiversity with the installation of Connect to Protect  flower beds at corners of Washington St. and College Ave. The featured native plants were grown at the garden’s Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies and were planted by garden staff. The beds have now reached full spring bloom and are enhancing the visual space downtown while also providing an inviting space for pollinators. SBG’s presence downtown was made official last week with the installation of our interpretive sign which explains the importance of native plants in urban spaces. The plant beds feature attractive native plant species favored by native bees, butterflies and birds as well as colorful annuals to beautify our cityscape. This project was completed with the support of Athens Downtown Development, UGA Extension Master Gardeners and the Athens-Clarke Co. Unified Government.

 

 

April Native Plant of the Month: Georgia Trillium

Georgia Trillium

Trillium georgianum

The species formerly known as Trillium pusillum was renamed in 2017 to Trillium georgianum. It was recognized for being genetically and physically unique from other similar dwarf trillium and it only occurs in one place in the wild, Georgia’s Whitfield County.

Georgia Trillium is an endangered perennial herb with erect stems and 3 petaled white flowers with wavy edges and it blooms in the spring. It thrives in seasonally wet swamps with calcium-rich, clay soils and takes 5 – 7 years to produce the first flowering stalk. Once mature, it can be very long- lived, perhaps living hundreds of years, since the rhizome continues to lengthen and produce shoots on one end, while the other end decays. But it’s habitat is being destroyed by logging and clearing in floodplain forests. It is also in competition from exotic pest plants for habitat space.

 

 

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is working with this plant and has reintroduced it into new Georgia sites to preserve and grow the population. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.

 

March Native Plant of the Month: Georgia Rockcress

Native plant of the month: GEORGIA ROCKCRESS

Arabis georgiana

The Georgia Rockcress is a threatened perennial found in very few locations along rocky slopes in Georgia’s Chattahoochee, Clay, Floyd, Gordon, Harris and Muscogee counties.  Its delicate, erect stems hold flowers with four white petals. The Georgia Rockcress is unique because it grows in thin, rocky soils that discourage many other native plants, but it is not a strong competitor. Aggressive exotic plants, such as Japanese Honeysuckle and Chinese Privet, are invading the habitat and competing for sun and nutrients. The plant is also suffering because clearing and quarrying of rocky bluffs, hardwood slopes, and riverbanks destroys its habitat.

 

 

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is working with this plant and has reintroduced it into new Georgia sites to preserve and grow the population. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.

Long-time volunteer helps State Botanical Garden and partners conserve endangered native species

Nita Haley has volunteered with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia for 16 years, often focusing her efforts in the gift shop. This year, however, Haley is using her sewing skills to help the garden and its southeastern partners collect the seeds of rare and endangered plants.

Haley makes seed bags, small mesh pouches with drawstrings that fit over the top of flowering plants to collect their seeds. She created the bags with Jennifer Ceska, conservation coordinator for the State Botanical Garden, a unit of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia.

“The charm of the bag is that it’s made of polyester, so you can see through it and it dries quickly,” Haley said. “It’s also lightweight, so it won’t weigh the plants down during a heavy rain.”

Seed collection has long been a popular conservation method for those working with rare and endangered plants. Unfortunately, when the seeds mature, they are often blown away by wind and rain. The garden’s conservation team has sewn their own collection nets for years, but they often get wind-damaged or come untied.

Haley’s model is more efficient.

“Nita’s seed collection bags are well-made, they don’t fray and they’re re-usable,” Ceska said. “People have even used panty hose as collection tools before, but Nita’s are a breathable and uniform solution that can be used by conservationists all over the southeast.”

So far, Haley has made more than 150 bags, which are being used by the Chattahoochee Nature Center, The Nature Conservancy, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Georgia Department of Transportation, in addition to the State Botanical Garden.

Haley moved to Athens from Atlanta 19 years ago after retiring from teaching, and she comes from a family of sewers. While she doesn’t know the long-term implications or the range of the project, Haley hopes to continue assisting the conservation teams throughout the state with their seed collection needs.

“I call the people who work with the plants ‘seed scientists,’” she said. “They use the bags to preserve rare seeds, but I’m the one having fun, doing what I love.”

The Conservation Blog: The State Botanical Garden of Georgia can help you grow wildflowers for bees

You have likely seen the ads on social media or noticed the missing bee on Cheerios boxes, bringing attention to the plight of bees. We at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia appreciate the attention bees are getting through products like Cheerios, Burt’s Bees, and Haagen Daz, teaching through their ad campaigns and raising funds and awareness for the plight of bees.

Bees are in trouble across the United States. European Honeybees succumb to Colony Collapse Disorder, mites, and other parasites, and fungal and bacterial diseases. Native bees are declining from loss of habitat and possibly cross-over pathogens from the honeybees (an area of active research). All beneficial insects suffer from loss of habitat (think of how few diverse prairies or woodlands you’ve seen lately in Georgia), and from chemical use like systemic insecticides that show up in all plant tissues, including pollen and nectar. For the latest science on all of these topics, visit the website of the Xerces Society. Georgia farmers (both at home and on the farm) rely upon bees to pollinate their crops. Blueberries require bees as pollinators, and they are a major export item for Georgia farmers, shipping annually up to 90 million pounds, an ever increasing bounty due to our long growing season and good cultivar selections.

Cheerios recently launched a new project to give away one million wildflower seeds to inspire people to include wildflowers in their landscapes. Incorporating native wildflowers in all gardens from patio to mailbox to school and coffee shop does indeed help bees, other beneficial insects, and all the critters that rely upon them as food, from larks to lacewings to lizards. If you’ve been following this topic on social media, you’ve likely seen a second wave of articles and posts discouraging people from planting the seed mixes developed for the Cheerios project. The quick answer to this controversy is that the Cheerios seed mix, though well intentioned, is not ideal for all regions of the US.

We at the State Botanical Garden are sympathetic with both sides in this controversy. It would be a real challenge to create a wildflower seed mix useful and appropriate to all climates, soils, and elevations across North America. And even if you could, it would be very difficult to then come up with enough seeds to actually be able to share 100 million of them. Kudos to General Mills for taking on this effort. They have been funding large-scale pollinator habitat restoration projects, and they surpassed their goal of 100 million seeds (announced March 9, 2017), distributing 1.5 billion seeds in a very few days. The concern, the pushback you may be reading about from botanical gardens, conservation organizations, and wildlife agencies, is that the seed mix was not ideal for nationwide use and could actually do harm in several ways. The seeds may not establish well, frustrating patrons and dimming excitement about gardening with wildflowers. The mix could potentially introduce a weedy plant into someone’s garden that crowds out other plants or even escapes into natural areas, bullying native plants in their wild habitats. Both scenarios give wildflower seed mixes a bad name. The Cheerios wildflower effort did raise an enormous amount of attention for gardening with wildflowers to benefit bees. Let’s ride that momentum of interest and get great Georgia seeds into the hands of Georgia’s gardeners. Let’s teach people how to garden with wildflowers.

We here at the State Botanical Garden do not believe we could create a species mix for the entire US that would not create a problem in another region of the country. It would be difficult, probably impossible, to choose a single species that would grow well across the country and not become invasive in some states. Even regional mixes, such as southeastern seed mixes, are less than ideal. Think about the differences between sandy Coastal Plain soils versus the red clay soils of the Piedmont and Mountains of Georgia. Consider the differences in temperatures reflected in the hardiness zones from south to north Georgia.

Conversation horticulturists at the State Botanical Garden have been selecting native Georgia plants and increasing their seeds since 2012 as part of the pollinator conservation research at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies and our Connect to Protect outreach mission. Since 2012, tThe Garden has been collaborating with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and with members of the Green Industry (nurseries and wholesalers) to increase production of appropriate native plants for gardening and habitat restoration through the Georgia Native Plant Initiative. Through our education program Connect to Protect, we are teaching techniques for gardening and restoration that are appropriate for Georgia’s soils and native plants.

And here’s the latest good news ─ after five years of research and production, we now have enough native plant seeds to share! Visit the State Botanical Garden Gift Shop to purchase wildflower seeds selected to perform well in home gardens and in Georgia soils. These are beautiful plants with personality and stories of heritage, use, and connection to Georgia’s ecosystems and culture–and their flowering times will be synchronized with the life cycles of native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators in your region. Our SBG wildflower seeds will go on sale the last week of March at the Garden’s Gift Shop.

If you want to help bees and enjoy a garden of wonderful native plants, the State Botanical Garden can help you. Use our seeds and our techniques developed to help your garden succeed. We are happy to help. This is what we do!

Check out the State Botanical Garden website for ways we can help you garden with Georgia wildflowers:

  • Recommended native plant nurseries list
  • Recommended seed source list
  • Recommended plants for sale at our SBG Gift Shop, Plantapalooza Spring Plant Sale, and Connect to Protect Fall Plant Sale
  • Certificate in Native Plants classes for learning about and gardening with native plants of Georgia
  • Georgia Native Plant Initiative increasing the production and promotion of native plants in the Green Industry
  • Georgia Milkweed Initiative
  • Connect to Protect outreach program and philosophy
  • Publications on native plants of Georgia, identification and propagation, books, manuals, and articles