New England native plants have a new ally with the creation of a website dedicated to disseminating information about them.
The New England Native Plants Initiatives site highlights “the important role native plants play in our ecology,” said Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture graduate student John Campanelli. He and his advisor, Associate Professor Julia Kuzovkina, co-initiated the website while working on a related DOT native grasses project.
Campanelli adds that the site acts as a clearinghouse to “direct people to organizations and businesses related to native plants in our region,” with the goal of increasing use of the plants. The new CAHNR website has several potential audiences from amateur gardeners to government and industry professionals to conservationists.
Native plants benefit ecosystems and the environment. For example, forbs, or wildflowers, provide ideal forage (pollen and nectar) for native pollinators like bees and butterflies. With the increased use of native forbs, there is the potential to reverse the decline of pollinator populations in the region, says Campanelli. The website has a page devoted to pollinators, and it includes links to fact sheets and research articles.
Campanelli points out an additional bonus, “Native plants are better adapted to a region’s ecological parameters. They require fewer inputs, such as water and fertilizers, to thrive.” This fact and the ability of natives to provide habitats for many species of wildlife, such as birds, reptiles and amphibians, contribute to a cleaner environment and conservation efforts, according to Campanelli.
The site mentions other pluses of native plants in the roadside revegetation section, which includes a 284-page report prepared for the New England Transportation Consortium called Effective Establishment of Native Grasses on Roadsides in New England. These pdf guidelines draw from interviews with experts and contain the results of UConn research obtained from regional demonstration plots.
Editors of the revegetation report include Associate Professor Julia Kuzovkina, John Campanelli and Associate Professor Cristian Schulthess, all from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. Department of Extension Senior Cooperative Extension Educator Robert Ricard and Connecticut College Arboretum Director Glenn Dreyer served as editors, as well. The collaborators “centered on the best methods for transitioning roadside revegetation from turf grass to native plant communities,” Campanelli said.
The manual fills a niche because the practice of roadside native plantings is relatively new to New England, and the region has unique ecological conditions. It also advances improvements in Connecticut pollinator health, which is the mandate of Connecticut Senate Bill 231, Public Act 16-17 approved in 2016.
Other information about native plants on the website includes plant sources for five of the New England states, scientific references, links to related organizations, fact sheets and podcasts. For people who want to stay current with what is happening in the region, the “State Initiatives” tab at the top of the site has a dropdown menu listing a page for each New England state.
In addition, the homepage announces news and upcoming events, such as wildflower walks, and provides a “Get Involved” button for obtaining more native plant information, asking questions or collaborating.
Campanelli hopes to add news to the site about other initiatives and strengthen connections to related groups, such as a beekeeping organization that does research on bee health in the region.
The CAHNR Web Team helped create the native plant website.
By Patsy Evans