By Hailey Blevins
Most of us go around planting things in our gardens and yards based on how pretty or exotic they are without thinking twice about the impact that could have.
The NC Native Plant Society (NCNPS) does consider the impact this has, which is why they’ve made it their mission to “promote the enjoyment and conservation of NC’s native plants and their habitats through education, protection, and propagation, and advocacy.” Dr. Annkatrin Rose, the Chair of the Blue Ridge Chapter, is dedicated to doing just that, hosting several opportunities for volunteers to get involved along the way.
The Blue Ridge Chapter has been very active this year with several recent and ongoing projects volunteers can get involved with. These include: the Hardin Park School Native Gardens project, Plant Rescues, the Parkway Collaboration, Invasive Plant Removals and the Daniel Boone Native Gardens project.
The Hardin Park School Native Gardens project’s goal is to educate the next generation about the importance of native landscaping while the school plans a corresponding curriculum around native plants. The NCNPS members are planting shrubs, small trees and donated plants.
The Plant Rescues were conducted in conjunction with the widening and paving of the gravel section of Hardin Road. About 10 volunteers helped at each rescue. Members and volunteers dug up and replanted hundreds of plants, most of which were replanted at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens while many more were taken home by members and volunteers.
The Parkway Collaboration project involves the sorting and cleaning of wildflower seeds that were collected for the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Wildflower Display Area restoration project. More volunteer opportunities for this project will be available in the future.
The Invasive Plant Removals tackled removing exotic plant species in public areas, including the Boone Greenway Trail.
The Daniel Boone Native Gardens project focuses on the Rhododendron Walk section that the NCNPS Blue Ridge Chapter adopted. This section is dedicated to being a public display area for rescued plants.
On Wednesday, June 20, Dr. Rose and two volunteers were hard at work in the Daniel Boone Native Gardens cleaning out invasive plants and sticks. With gloves donned, the volunteers and Dr. Rose were tackling the removal of the invasive English Ivy, which spreads along the ground and up anything and everything. Dr. Rose and the volunteers targeted this invasive plant on Wednesday because of its ability to climb and suffocate a tree, killing it.
“Of course there’s still work to be done. They’ve started putting in some stepping-stones, and we’re trying to pull out some of the invasive weeds and transplanting,” said Dr. Rose as she led me through the section they were working on. Although they were a small group of three last week, they didn’t let that slow them down. “You still get things done with a few people anyway,” Dr. Rose commented positively.
“For the invasive plant removal on the greenway, we had about four or five people, which is a pretty decent number for that. You don’t want too many people because then they trample what you want to pull out and that’s not good either,” she continued.
She pointed out many of the plants they had transplanted into the Rhododendron section of the Daniel Boone Native Gardens. “There’s some Flat Root that we rescued and the Trillium we rescued. They (the Trillium) actually have fruit on them. I’m excited! They’re done blooming, and this is actually the only kind of this Trillium that we have.”
Dr. Rose and the volunteers were all pleased with the new growth the transplanted plants had. “Seeing it’s still doing well and not dying is pretty good. And for someone who knows plants, that’s exciting,” Dr. Rose said. “We’re hoping that with us doing this over the years, that these things will hopefully establish themselves and spread.”
Dr. Rose’s hope that the plants will spread is already seeing progress as last year’s plants have bloomed again and last year’s dropped seeds have begun to grow into plants.
She pointed out an Orchid that had done just that. “Here is another of the Orchid’s we rescued and this one is actually making a flower. These are the seeds from last year. It should be blooming in July or August.”
Seeing the plants do well and come back the next year makes the work worth all the effort for Dr. Rose and all the volunteers who help.
Transplanting these plants into an environment they will thrive in isn’t as easy as it sounds though. What makes transplanting some plants difficult for the NCNPS is that some plants need the fungi in the soil or other specific environments, to grow. “If you want to successfully transplant them, you want to take a big chunk of soil with all the fungi in there. Hopefully that will help them if you can transplant the fungus along with the plant.”
Thankfully, Dr. Rose and the volunteers often saved some of the work since many of these specific requirements are already in the soil in the Daniel Boone Native Gardens. Dr. Rose commented on this, “In here, we’re lucky because these plants all grow with mycorrhizae associated with these kinds of trees. Those fungi are already in the soil, so they just need to reattach.”
The NCNPS still has a lot of work ahead of them throughout the Blue Ridge community. They serve Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes Counties. From removing invasive plants to cleaning seeds to tidying areas around transplanted plants, NCNPS does it all. In case you missed the volunteer opportunity at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens or Tuesday’s yard walk with Bill Dunson, there are several more opportunities coming up.
June 30 from 9-11:30 a.m., there will be a guided hike starting at the Profile Trail parking lot on “Edible, Medicinal, and Toxic Plants of Appalachia” at Grandfather Mountain State Park.
NCNPS will be keeping an eye on the Boone Greenway for more seedlings, so it’s possible there will be another volunteer opportunity there in a month or two.
There will be monthly meeting on July 11 at the Daniel Boone Native Garden, featuring a tour of the Gardens. Information, seeds, and more will be available.
The Tater Hill Hike on July 15 to see Geum geniculatum is booked. Those interested may let them know in order to be added to a waiting list in case spots open up.
Anyone can volunteer with NCNPS to help keep NC’s plant life healthy and beautiful. All you need to volunteer is closed toed shoes, a water bottle, and gloves!