Caring for and Healing the Earth


Suburban Caretaking

by Connie Webster

    One of my goals in life is to buy a tract of land to protect, to allow to "go back to nature." Until I have the wherewithal to do that I satisfy myself with native plant gardening.
    From the wild garden of a like-minded friend I received plants such as Solomon's Seal, Bloodroot, and Cranesbill. These I planted in my shady suburban backyard several years ago. Since then these starter plants have thrived and multiplied so that now I too may give away plants to interested persons.
    I hope that some of these plants will be placed in second- or third-growth wooded areas which lack those particular species, yet have the proper conditions for the growth of that species and are in a geographic area where that species is native.
    This kind of caretaking can be thought of as "species" caretaking or "indirect" caretaking. In "species" caretaking I am attempting to increase numbers of individual plants of particular species, thus protecting/caretaking the species. In "indirect" caretaking I am making it possible for certain native plant populations to be replenished in natural areas owned by other people.
    An important caution: make sure that the initial source of native plants is seed gathered from wild plants or seed/plants from someone's wild garden, NOT plants removed from natural areas (unless rescued from areas slated for "development").
    Also, always check your field guides to ascertain that the species you are dealing with really are native and not imports from other parts of the world. Alien plants are designated as such. For example, you may be surprised to know that the well-known species Teasel is alien.
    And be sure that the species is native to the geographic area in which you are thinking of planting it; field guides give this information also.
    Another method of procuring wild plants in the suburbs is to neglect mowing the lawn! I've been amazed by the plants which germinate in my back yard when I allow the lawn to grow an extra week or two. I actually had native holly trees show up a few years ago. When I did resume mowing I simply mowed around them as I would for any shrub or sapling. Recently two of those hollies were transplanted to a wooded area owned by a relative of mine.
    This may be "micro"-caretaking, but it can still make a difference by contributing to a larger effort.


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