May 2020 Newsletter
Healing the earth, one yard at a time.
Dear Wild Ones Members, Friends and Supporters,

Welcome to spring! And welcome to a new way of "getting together!"

During May, we are offering two FREE programs, as well as a Certificate in Native Plants class, that you can access from home via Zoom.

Our May 18 program - "Basic Gardening Roundtable" - is in response to frequent questions we've received about HOW to get started with native plant gardening. Several of our chapter members who are experienced native plant gardeners will be available on Zoom for this program to answer your questions and provide additional resources for you (we plan to offer this program again later this year).

Since we will be offering many of our programs via Zoom for some time, please remember to use our website ( and go to the "Calendar" page (under the "Programs" drop-down menu). There, you'll find Zoom sign-in information for all of our free public programs.

In this newsletter, we've also provided a number of free webinar resources, so that you can continue to learn about native plant landscaping and responsible gardening.

We hope that you are enjoying time outdoors and in your gardens. The Tennessee Valley Chapter of Wild Ones remains committed to bringing you resources for "healing the earth, one yard at a time."

May Programs

Conservation of
Native Plant Communities
Monday, May 11, 6:00pm
featuring Trent Deason
FREE Online via Zoom

Trent Deason is a preservationist focusing on natural resource management in the Chickamauga National Military Park. He will be speaking about the National Park and the Legacy Project as a part of our Community Conservation Conversations series. Trent will discuss managing plant communities, especially exotic invasive management strategies, but also rare cedar glade species. 

You'll need to sign up as a user on Zoom . It's free!
Basic Gardening Roundtable: 
Native from the Beginning
Monday, May 18, 2020
Online via Zoom
FREE and Open to the Public

Do you want to learn more about gardening with native plants? Do you just need more information about how to get started? Bring your questions, victories, failures, fears and triumphs, for an informal garden roundtable with experienced local native plant gardeners from the Tennessee Valley chapter. We will offer pragmatic advice on design, plant selection, sourcing, and difficulties encountered from our combined experience.

You will be able to ask questions during the meeting, but if you have specific questions, please send them to Roundtable Mediator Lisa Lemza at  by noon May 18th.
May CNP Class

The Certificate in Native Plants program is designed to expand students' knowledge of botany, ecology, conservation and uses of native flora in the southeastern United States. The CNP offers a blend of classroom instruction, hands-on learning and guided hikes. Participants are required to complete four core classes, eight electives, and 40 hours of volunteering for approved native plant projects. 

Visit  for more information.  Classes are open to Wild Ones members and non-members, whether or not you are pursuing the certificate.  

Native Plant Communities
Mary Priestley & Charlotte Freeman
Saturday, May 30, 2020
9:00am - 12:30pm
Online via Zoom
CORE Class (6 credits)

Plant communities are assemblages of plant species living together in a given place. Interactions among plant species, interactions plants have with other organisms (such as animals and fungi), and interactions plants have with their physical environment (such as climate, topography, geology, and disturbance) all work together to determine the composition and structure of plant communities over time. In this course, we will examine the ecological properties of plant communities by exploring plant habitats. We will also discuss the benefits and challenges of protecting native plant communities in Tennessee.

Part of the class will be taught by the instructors online via Zoom. Those pursuing the Certificate in Native Plants will be required to complete and submit a field investigation/observation of a native plant community, which is designed to take about three hours to complete.

Since this class no longer has a guided field component, the price has been reduced to $35 for members of one of the three presenting organizations...or $45 for non-members.

Class size will be limited to 30 participants. Please register soon to ensure your spot.
Save the Dates!
Habitat Hero Awards
and Special Speaker Presentation
Friday, September 11, 2020 evening time TBA

Native Plant Garden Tour
Saturday, September 12, 2020

Save the Dates!

More information coming soon.
Volunteer to Help

Are you interested in helping local schools utilize the outdoors as a learning environment? If so, then Hardy Elementary School could use your help!

The school is a recipient of a grant from the Chattanooga Area Pollinator Partnership (CHAPP), and together with WaterWays, they are creating an outdoor learning area. Volunteers with building experience are needed to help assemble the classroom structure. All work would be outdoors. Contact Mary Beth Sutton if interested..

Where to Buy Native Plants

Many regional nurseries are offering mail order and curbside plant purchases.
Please check their websites and call in advance for details.

Our website provides a list and contact information for
local and regional native plant nurseries.

Online Programs of Interest
Fed up with invasive species and sterile landscapes?
Doug Tallamy urges Americans to go native and go natural
Watch the recent Smithsonian webinar with Doug Tallamy. Read about Tallamy's "Homegrown National Park" concept and how it can help.

Steps You Can Take to "Rewild America"

The nation’s backyards are more than ripe for a makeover.
Here are some of Tallamy's suggestions, with a few added details for the Tennessee Valley, to help rejuvenators hit the ground running.

1. Shrink your lawn.    Tallamy recommends halving the area devoted to lawns in the continental United States—reducing water, pesticide and fertilizer use. Replace grass with plants that sustain more animal life, he says: “Every little bit of habitat helps.”

2. Remove invasive plants.   Introduced plants sustain less animal diversity than natives do. Worse, some exotics crowd out indigenous flora. Notable offenders: Japanese honeysuckle, Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, privet, english ivy, and kudzu. Herbicides may be necessary as a last resort.

3. Create no-mow zones.   Many native caterpillars drop from a tree’s canopy to the ground to complete their life cycle. Put a native ground cover such as Virginia creeper (not English ivy, since it is invasive) or leave the leaves around the base of a tree to accommodate the insects. Birds will benefit, as well as moths and butterflies.

4. Equip outdoor lights with motion sensors.   White lights blazing all night can disturb animal and insect behavior. LED devices use less energy, and  yellow light  attracts fewer flying insects.

5. Plant keystone species.   Among native plants, some contribute more to the food web than others. Native oak, cherry, cottonwood, maple and hickory are several of the best tree choices. Click  HERE  to find the keystone species for your area. Goldenrod, Joe-pye weed, asters, sunflowers, evening primrose and violets are among the plants that support beleaguered native bees and other pollinators.

6. Fight mosquitoes with bacteria.    Inexpensive packets containing  Bacillus thuringiensis  can be placed in drains and other wet sites where mosquitoes hatch. Unlike pesticide sprays, the bacteria inhibit mosquitoes but not other insects.
Virtual 2020 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
As spring is progressing all around us, it is hard not to really miss the fellowship with each other and with nature that the annual Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spring Pilgrimage gives us. Therefore, an online version of the event is being held, through the iNaturalist app. This year’s event will not be limited to the confines of the GSMNP (the GSMNP is currently closed), nor is it ever limited to just wildflowers as the 70-year old name suggests, but instead the event will be expanded throughout the entire country. So, no matter where you live or what organisms you have in your backyards, neighborhoods, or outdoor areas you may safely visit, you can share them!
Grounded in Place:
How Landscape Architecture and Good Planting Design is Transforming Chattanooga
View the recording of the April 24th livestream discussion between Matt Whitaker, owner and founding principal of WMWA Landscape Architects and Mark McKnight, President & CEO of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center about the various projects transforming downtown Chattanooga.

Matt and Mark discussed the importance of good planting design and took questions about creating beautiful native landscapes grounded in the uniqueness of place.
Xerces Society Webinars
Monarch Butterfly Conservation Webinar Series
The 2020 Monarch Conservation Webinar Series, hosted by the Monarch Joint Venture and the USFWS National Conservation Training Center, offers a series of monthly programs.
A Walk in the Garden:
Webinar Series
As people across the country and around the world adapt to ongoing limitations on gathering with family and friends and to new restrictions on movements around favorite green spaces, the Ecological Landscape Alliance is offering a new webinar series,  A Walk in the Garden , that will provide gardeners everywhere with much needed respite. Free Wednesday webinars offer communal walks through gardens, plant discussions, garden tips, and other gardening inspiration. 
Invasive Plant Webinars
Join a FREE monthly webinar to hear from the experts about invasive species, with topics ranging from data management, education and awareness, invasive species management and legislation. Presented by the National Invasive Species Management Agency.
Shoreline Gardening for Healthy Lakes and Rivers
Lakes Specialist Patrick Goggin and CLMN (Wisconsin Citizen Lake Montioring Service) Educator Paul Skawinski talked about gardening with native plants on lakeshore properties to improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, and improve property aesthetics. Paul is the Wild Ones Central Wisconsin Chapter President
Photos from the Field
The following three photos, taken last week by John Vaeth, show examples of a rich diet being fed to young chicks by the Eastern Bluebird. These photos demonstrate the importance of having healthy landscapes with native plants and using responsible gardening practices that support a diverse variety of food sources in our ecosystem.
Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebirds occur across eastern North America and south as far as Nicaragua. Birds that live farther north and in the west of the range tend to lay more eggs than eastern and southern birds. Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one successful brood per year. Young produced in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over the winter.

During the breeding season, bluebirds’ diet is primarily ground arthropods (insects, arachnids, myriapods). In late summer and into winter, they add small fleshy fruits to their mostly insect diet. Both parents bring food to the nestlings, and young from a previous brood also help to feed them in some cases. Young leave the nest at about 18-19 days on average.

Photos by John Vaeth.

Male Eastern Bluebird feeding Stag Beetle Larvae to young

Like all beetles, stag beetles have "complete" metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. In many stag beetle species, females lay their eggs on or under the bark of dead, fallen trees. Upon hatching, larvae chew their way into the tree and feed on the juices of the decaying wood. Once they complete development (a process which may take several years), the larvae pupate in small chambers in the soil near their food source. 

Because they help with the decomposition of dead trees, stag beetle larvae (like termites and other creatures) are a vital part of the forest ecosystem. Stag beetles and their larvae are food for a variety of animals, including birds, lizards, snakes, toads, raccoons, centipedes, and mustellids (weasels, skunks, etc.). Stag beetles are not considered pests; they are beneficial insects because they help with the decomposition process of dead wood in forests.

Photo by John Vaeth.

Carolina or Wood Vetch (Vicia caroliniana)

Wood Vetch is an attractive native wildflower that grows on dry soils. It may grow 1 to 2 feet tall. The leaves are pinnately compound and alternate with an entire margin and hairy underside. The stem is hollow, hairy, and slightly winged. Light pinkish-white, pea-like flowers appear in spring. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. It typically grows in acid soils on rocky slopes, rocky woods, ridges, and streambanks. It is part of the legume family, and therefore, can fix nitrogen. Photo by Mike O'Brien.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Native to much of eastern North America, Wild Geranium has lovely dissected leaves, beautiful pinkish-purple flowers, and it readily spreads, forming stunning patches that everything from bees to butterflies can't resist. Mostly found in woodlands in the wild, it does just as well in full sun. Interestingly, Wild Geranium has a unique way of spreading its seeds. Each seed is packed into a pod and the pods are attached to a structure that resembles a crane's bill. As the bill dries, it literally catapults the seeds away from the parent plant. Each seed has a small tail-like structure attached to it that bends and moves in response to changes in humidity, which helps to drive the seed into the soil where it can safely germinate. Photo by Mike O'Brien.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Swamp Milkweed (a host plant for the Monarch butterfly) is easily grown in medium to wet soils in full sun. It is surprisingly tolerant of average well-drained soils in cultivation even though the species is native to swamps and wet meadows. Plants have deep taproots and are best left undisturbed once established. It typically grows 3-4' tall (less frequently to 5') on branching stems. Small, fragrant, pink to mauve flowers (1/4" wide), each with five reflexed petals and an elevated central crown, appear in tight clusters (umbels) at the stem ends in summer. The juice of this milkweed is less milky than that of other species. The  genus  was named in honor of Aesculapius, Greek god of medicine, undoubtedly because some species have long been used to treat a variety of ailments. The Latin species name means flesh-colored. Photo by Dennis Bishop.

Threadleaf Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) in foreground.
Mouse-Eared Coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata) in background.

Bluestar is erect, clump-forming plant that is primarily grown for its blue spring flowers, feathery green summer foliage and golden fall color. Powdery blue, 1/2" star-like flowers appear in terminal clusters in April-May, atop stems rising to 3' tall. Feathery, soft-textured, needle-like, alternate leaves are bright green in spring and summer, but turn bright yellow gold in autumn.

Mouse-eared Coreposis is easily grown in medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Plants tolerate humidity and some dry conditions, but are not as drought tolerant as some other species of Coreopsis. Prompt deadheading of spent flower stalks can be tedious for a large planting, but does tend to encourage additional bloom. Plants may be sheared in mid summer to promote a fall rebloom and to remove any sprawling or unkempt foliage. In optimum growing conditions, this stoloniferous perennial will slowly spread in the garden over time to form an attractive planting, but spread is easy to check. Clumps may be divided in spring. Photo by Nora Bernhardt.

Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum)

Rusty Blackhaw is a deciduous, suckering shrub or small tree that typically grows 10-20’ tall. Glossy, leathery, ovate to obovate leaves (to 4” long) are dark green. Leaf undersides, buds and young stems are covered with rusty brown hairs. Tiny white flowers in showy rounded cymes (to 5” across) bloom in April. Flowers are followed by clusters of elliptic, edible, dark blue berries (to 3/8” long) that ripen in September-October. Birds are attracted to the fruit. Foliage turns reddish purple in fall.  Promptly remove root suckers to prevent colonial spread unless naturalization is desired. Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. In our area, this plant may do best with some light afternoon shade. More than one plant should be used in order to facilitate proper pollination necessary for abundant fruit production. Photo by Nora Bernhardt.

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