Spring Newsletter 2019
President's Letter
Rusty Schmidt
This newsletter is dedicated to pollinators and their need for native plants. Most of our insects, nearly 90% in the world, require at least one host plant to feed and lay their eggs on in order to complete their life cycle. Insects are extremely important to our environment and existence as they are the source that transfers energy from plants to other animals, and the source that transfers pollen from one plant to another to form the fruits and seeds they need to reproduce and survive.

Our terrestrial birds rear their young on insects. In fact, 96% of our terrestrial birds require a large amount of insects, especially caterpillars to raise their young. The nesting pair of birds typically requires 6,000 caterpillars per brood of birds per year. We need our native plants to raise our insects for our birds and other native animals, as well as to pollinate our gardens.

Butterfly and pollinator gardens are commonly created by using an array of host plants to
attract them. Different types of plants have varying functions as far as butterflies
are concerned. This is why butterfly gardens tend to focus heavily on host and nectar plants. By promoting a diverse pollinator garden, we provide an array of habitats for our insects; and please don’t forget the shrubs and trees that provide even more of a suitable habitat than some of our native perennials.

The issue of using non-native plants in our gardens is that we simply don’t have many insects that will utilize them, which ultimately reduces the local insect population. Studies have shown that areas overrun with alien or non-native species produce 35 times less caterpillar biomass, which is the most popular insect food for birds.

Different species of butterflies and insects have contrasting preferences for host plants,
hence the importance of investing in various types of host plants for your garden. Although host plants aren’t typically top-of-mind when planning a butterfly or pollinator garden, no garden would be complete without these important ‘behind-the-scenes’ species. By including both host and nectar plants in your garden, you can attract a wider selection of butterflies while providing an environment that supports their entire life cycle.

Host plants are not always the robust blooming flowers we think of them to be. Instead, many of these important species tend to be grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees. Please provide all varieties of these plants in your pollinator garden to ensure for a plentiful and happy home for our native insects.

In regards to the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, we provide a wide array of these host plants and pollinator friendly species that will be available during our fall plant sale. Our spring sale has been postponed this year as we have been delayed on our propagation due to the recent (and finished) construction of our two brand new hoop houses! Please keep an eye on our website for our upcoming plant sale dates and volunteer opportunities throughout the summer and into the fall at www.linpi.org . Happy planting and watch for those gorgeous butterflies!

Rusty Schmidt, President
Volunteer Opportunities
We depend on volunteer assistance and have a wealth of opportunities this spring including: 

Weed Pulling the Founder Plot
Saturday, June 29th
Saturday, July 6th
Saturday, August 3rd

Weed Pulling Evening Potluck
Wednesday, July 17th
Friday, August 30th

Plant Propagation
July 2019

Applying Weed Fabric to the Founder Plot
July - August 2019

LIISMA Partnership Meeting
Monday, July 1st

Invasive Species Awareness Week
July 7th - 13th, 2019

July 8th: Quogue Wildlife Refuge Aquatic Plant Day - 9:00am - 2:00pm

July 9th: Frank Melville Park Nature Walk & Talk - 11:00am - 12:00pm

July 10th: Swan River Preserve Weed Walk-About - 9:30am - 1:30pm

July 11th: Friends of
Hempstead Plains Invasive Plant Removal

July 12th & 13th: Water Chestnut Pulls at Mill Pond Park - 9:00am - 3:00pm

For more information and to view more ISAW events please visit the LIISMA webpage.

For more information regarding volunteer opportunities and event updates visit our websites:

Long Island’s Most Popular Milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Milkweed
Kayla Strayhorn
Are you looking to attract beautiful pollinators to your yard this summer? Or soak in some extra rays while watering your native plants? Butterfly milkweed, in the Asclepiadaceae family is the perfect coarse perennial forb for your garden.

This native gem consists of numerous hairy stems and leaves that feed monarch caterpillars. Unlike various other plant species with thick milky saps, butterfly milkweed has a translucent sap with individual flowers consisting of five petals each. The native wildflower is found in dry open habitats, meadows, and grasslands. It grows on well drained soils in areas that provide an ample amount of sunlight. From May to September the butterfly milkweed blooms, attracting a variety of pollinators to its bright orange flowers. People admire the butterfly milkweed as a garden plant, for cut flowers, and as a food source.

Butterfly milkweed grows to a length of 1 to 3 feet in height, with its hairy stems becoming almost wood-like within a few years. The 'weed' produces lanceolate leaves with pointed tips, and after 1 to 3 years of growth the flowers will begin to develop. These flowers attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and insects that transfer pollen between flowers to help produce more of the milkweeds we love. Monarch caterpillars use the leaves of butterfly weed for food before transforming into the next stage of the butterfly cycle. In addition, the butterfly weed offers more protection to the monarchs by providing toxins ( cardenolides ) to the butterflies, making their bodies poisonous to predators. The monarch butterfly ( Danaus plexippus ) can sometimes be called the “milkweed butterfly” because of its larvae that eats the plant for nutrition.

Pollinators contribute to our environment every day and are an important part of our lives. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, over 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants, such as butterfly milkweed, rely on the importance of pollinators to produce their fruits and seeds. Every flower consists of a unique structure where the pollen is located inside tiny sacs that an insect or pollinator can easily attach to for successful pollination.

While milkweeds can be propagated via seeds and root cuttings, each seed pod consists of hundreds of seeds with silky white tufts that are blown by the wind. When these flowers begin to grow their squishy green seed pods called follicles, this means between one and five flowers have been perfectly pollinated. During the late summer and fall these follicles will turn brown and disperse into an array of seeds with silky fiber. This silky fiber helps contribute to the distance the seeds may flow.

If you’re interested in planting the butterfly milkweed from seed, here are some helpful tips that will lead to appropriate growth in your garden... Most milkweed seeds do best when sown in the fall and will endure outdoor weather conditions; but the seeds can also be started inside. For the seeds to successfully germinate indoors over the winter you will need to keep them cold and damp in a soil mixture, and store them in a refrigerator for 3 to 6 weeks. They require minimal additional watering or special care. After the 3 to 6 weeks the seeds can be taken out and planted into the landscape or in germination trays. Further instructions and details on germination can be found on various websites.

The butterfly milkweed is an excellent choice for any garden because it is adapted to our local environment and provides for many pollinators. Whether you want to support native pollinators like the monarch butterfly, or support the native milkweed population, butterfly milkweed also has many other benefits. The root of the butterfly weed has been used in the treatment of pleurisy, bronchitis, and other pulmonary disorders. One interesting fact people may not know is that butterfly weed has been used for snakebites, sore throats, snow blindness, and to help stimulate the production of breast milk in women. This species has provided many people with relief and continues to be used in other treatments. Throughout history butterfly weed has been used in diets for certain tribes because of its fibers and long stems as well.

Overall, the uniqueness of the butterfly weed is what attracts its pollinators, creating a scenic view welcoming all visitors!
Butterfly Milkweed seed pods with the beloved and hungry monarch larvae feasting away!
This Season's Native Plants:
Pollinator Frenzy!
Caroline Schnabl
What better way to introduce some of Long Island's best pollinator species than during National Pollinator Week ! June 17th - 23rd is dedicated to learning about our native pollinators and how to protect them. The below species are just a few of the wonderful native plants that can be incorporated into any pollinator garden.
The Common Buckeye butterfly (below) with one of it's host plants Blue Vervain (above)
Swamp Milkweed & it's companion the Monarch butterfly (above)
The striking red inflorescence of Cardinal Flower (above)
A Pink Lady's Slipper in the understory of a coniferous forest - Please do not pick these if they are found as they are poor propagators!
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) inflorescence mimics a candelabra in its shape with it's small blueish-purple blossoms that bloom from the bottom-up. This native perennial is a host plant for the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) .

Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) is a bushy perennial that bears many small pea-shaped yellow flowers. The unique spread out structure of this plant allows for many larvae of the Frosted Elfin and Wild Indigo Duskywing to feed upon it.

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) flowers, flower buds, and fruit provide food for many native butterfly and moth larvae such as the Summer Azure and the Mottled Duskywing. The plant is also enjoyed by various other species of wildlife.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is a useful pollinator plant for wetland habitats. Of course, the Monarch Butterflies will be thankful for its presence.

Eastern Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is a multi-seasonal interest shrub with exfoliating bark and white flower clusters with reddish/pink capsules that attract many species of native bees, birds, and butterflies.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) depends on hummingbirds for pollination as their bright red inflorescence is long and tubular in shape.

Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) is a big pollinator favorite, if you couldn't already tell by it's name. These intricate violet blossoms persist throughout the entirety of summer and carry a pleasant minty aroma enjoyed by pollinators and humans!

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is a unique wildflower that belongs to the orchid family. This long-lived perennial requires bees for pollination, trapping them inside their moccasin shaped flower pouch - only allowing for a narrow one way exit without giving the bees a nectar reward. This forces the bee to transfer any pollen it's holding inside, while picking up new pollen on its way out.
Effects of Invasive Plants on Native Pollinators & the Need for More Research
Bill Jacobs
Most of us are aware that invasive species threaten native species and their habitats in parks and other natural areas where they out-compete and damage the natural environment. Invasive species damage our backyard habitats, where they invade landscape beds, gardens, and trees (often killing them). The result is a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

Our native bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators interact with invasive plants, providing the pollination necessary for the invaders to reproduce. Native pollinators visit flowers for nectar and pollen. However, the role that native pollinators play in plant invasions is not well understood. Studies have shown that this interaction has a negative impact on native plants, particularly when native plants and invasive plants flower at the same time, and when the invasives are more abundant. Pollinators may favor invasive flowers over native ones. On the other hand, at least one study has shown that native plant reproduction is not adversely affected in the short term by the presence of invasive plants, and that competition for pollinators does not occur.

Even less well understood are the effects of invasive plants on the pollinators. According to one study, impacts can occur at a range of scales: from individual flower visitors (in terms of nutrition, health, and fitness), to populations and communities. While interactions with native pollinators may be beneficial for invasive plants, the opposite is thought to be true for the pollinators. Much of the research to date has focused on community-level impacts, with little known about the effects of invasive plants on individual flower visitors and their populations. The effects on individual flower visitors, in terms of their nutrition, behavior, health, survival, and fitness, is not well understood and needs more research.

Unfortunately, there are two invasive plants, Black Swallow-wort ( Vincetoxicum nigrum ; syn.  Cynanchum louiseae ) and Pale Swallow-wort ( Vincetoxicum rossicum ), of which we know all too well the harmful effects they have on one of our most popular pollinators, the monarch butterfly. You can read more on these invaders in the following article.
Time to Swallow the Truth on Invasive Plants
Luke Gervase
If you are reading this article, you most likely are aware or have been exposed to how beneficial Asclepias species, or milkweeds, can be for your native pollinator garden and our important pollinators. Unfortunately, there are two invasive species closely related to our native milkweeds that can have detrimental impacts on them and pollinators. What I am referring to are the pale and black swallow-wort. Both were originally placed in the milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae, but recently have been reclassified.

Black and pale swallow-wort were most likely brought to North America as ornamentals for the horticultural industry. As is common with many other invasive species, the potential impact of these plants was not truly known. The reason black and pale swallow-wort are a feature in this edition of the newsletter is because they are toxic to butterflies, deer, and other livestock. This poses a serious threat because if adult monarch butterflies lay eggs on swallow-wort, the larvae will not survive. To further that, black and pale swallow-wort also can out compete common milkweed which is the preferred larval host for monarch butterflies.

These two swallow-wort species, although different, are very similar in growth habit and appearance. They both can grow as climbing vines that form dense thickets and can smother other vegetation. Both are tolerant of drought conditions and disturbed sites and can spread quickly if given the opportunity to establish. These species have long oval leaves that are opposite and can get up to 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. The biggest identifying character between these two plants are their star-like flowers. The flowers of black swallow-wort are a deep purple and near black color with hairy petals and a wide base. The flowers of pale swallow-wort are pink to maroon in color and have no hairs and a narrow base. Both species produce seed pods that resemble native milkweeds and can therefore confuse pollinators. The seeds of swallow-wort are wind dispersed and a square meter of adult plants can produce up to 2,000 seeds per year.

If you suspect you have found black or pale swallow-wort, please report the observation into iMapInvasives or send pictures and the exact location of the observation to the LIISMA staff. For more information on black and pale swallow-wort please visit the LIISMA website.
Black Swallow-wort seed pods
Source: Leslie J. Mehorhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
Flowers of Black Swallow-wort
Source: Leslie J. Mehorhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
Pale Swallow-wort seed pods
Source: John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Bugwood.org
Flowers of Pale Swallow-wort
Source: Leslie J. Mehorhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
Making an Impact:
School Native Plant Gardens
Sue Avery
On a brisk fall day a class of fourth graders is out on their school grounds to begin the process of installing a garden. Trowels in hand, they are removing as much of the thin layer of turf grass as possible before the next class spreads a smothering layer of mulch. “Look what I found!” exclaims a boy showing off a curled up white lawn grub on his outstretched palm. Classmates crowd around and answer with a mixed chorus of wonderment and disgust. I explain to them that this creature is the immature form of a beetle. It is a lawn pest and no threat to the native plant garden, which will be ready for planting the following spring.
...I have been consulting for the installation of 15 such gardens at Long Island schools over the past few years. I am thankful to Peter Walsh, who is the Education Director for Seatuck Environmental Association, for getting me involved. Many of the teachers inspired to take on these projects have attended the popular Greentree Teachers’ Ecology Workshop, administered by Seatuck to provide tools and knowledge to teach about the natural environment of Long Island.

Indeed, these projects have been a wonderful way to teach kids local ecology and the benefits of growing native plants to attract and support butterflies and pollinators. More often than not the whole school is involved. We give a presentation at assembly to explain the significance and value of native plants. We run design charrettes, when imaginations run wild as small teams come together to diagram and draw up their plans from a diverse plant palette. Preparing the beds and planting gets the kids outside, their hands in soil, and instills ownership of the gardens. Sometimes the PTA and school landscape crew are also on board to help with initial watering and maintenance. LINPI plant sales, from where the majority of the plants are procured, provide access to plugs of ecotypic plants most suitable for starting a small native plant garden.
These gardens look their best in the fall and are welcoming at the start of the school year. Students can study the myriad of insects that are visiting gardens flourishing with late season grasses and flowers. They can see the fruits of their labor after just a few seasons. Students at the Cherokee School in Ronkonkoma made an amazing discovery! On stonewalls of their gardens raised bed they found rows of monarch butterfly chrysalises hanging in a long green row. And some schools plan to enhance their gardens further by constructing insect hotels as havens for nesting bees. As the growing season winds down schools are encouraged to delay cutting back vegetation to allow for self-propagation and seed collection for classroom projects. They see that in winter such gardens attract and shelter birds. They realize that come spring when there is a seed head attached to a plant it is so much easier to identify weeds. 
...Eastern prickly pear cactus ( Opuntia humifusa ) is a favorite and it blooms just before the end of the school year. The kids know to peer inside its glorious yellow flowers to find metallic green bees. They have learnt that these native bees are one of thousands of species apart from the ubiquitous European honeybee. They are honing their observation skills and making connections with the natural world. For me it has been most gratifying sharing in the kids’ enthusiasm. I can see first hand that even a small native plant garden on a school campus of brick, asphalt and turf can make an impact on learning. Native plant gardens bring the wonders of nature to the school playground and ensure we have stewards of the environment for our future.
All photos taken at Cherokee Street Elementary School in Ronkonkoma, NY
by Sandra Sorger Fantauzzi
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Board of Directors
Rusty Schmidt, President
Brian Smith, Vice President
Sue Avery, Secretary
Eric Alexander, Treasurer
Michael Butts
Clara Holmes
Rebecca Kassay
Laura Schwanof, RLA
Robin Simmen
Paul Anderson
Raju Rajan
Kathleen Cleary

Advisory Council

We extend many thanks to our generous sponsors!
Gary Gentile
Andrew Greller, PhD
Chris Kelly
Edward Toth
John Turner

Executive Director
Polly L. Weigand

Native Plant Program Coordinator
Caroline Schnabl

LIISMA Program Manager
Bill Jacobs

LIISMA Field Projects & Outreach Coordinator
Luke Gervase

Native Plant Intern
Kayla Strayhorn

Newsletter Editor
Caroline Schnabl
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