Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Arlington's Parks & Rec Digs In Pollinator Patch

The newly established wild flower meadow along the entrance to Long Branch Nature Center in mid September.

     For the last couple of years, Arlington's Parks and Recreation Department has been having a volunteer day where almost all our staff get together to volunteer a day of work and perform some team building and networking. Last year, the theme was very much environmental centered all around Arlington's nature centers. Project choices included a stream cleanup, milkweed seed cleaning, removal of invasive shrubs, tree planting, native plant garden work, and a restoration meadow planting. While they were all a success (you can see a few of the projects in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjjsOvMBGek), I'd like to expand on the meadow planting.
     The site chosen for creating a wild flower meadow was along the entrance to Long Branch Nature Center, at a site that had been treated for exotic invasive plants. Natural Resources staff pre-placed 580 pots, in small patches, representing 24 different native species for planting. The plants were all germinated from seed collected in the Arlington area, so these were about as locally native as you could get. Four-fifths of the plants were actually grown in the County's new native plant nursery.

Here's what the site looked like as we pre-placed the pots to plant and before we seeded the area. All the plants were locally produced and mostly from the new County native plant nursery, 580 in all representing 24 species. Note the tree location and compare to the first photo.

     The day of the event was in late October of last year. County staff volunteers planted all 580 plants and then helped to water them in place. It took the better part of the day as the ground was fairly hard and there were quite a few plants. We knew we would not see any results until the next year. That the deer were already munching on them the day we placed the pots out was also less than encouraging. But we had every intention of watching them succeed, forming a wild flower meadow, a pollinator patch that we got certified as a Monarch Way Station and living up to the County's Monarch Pledge as well. You can read more about monarch way stations here:

     But what a great success it turned out to be! While quite a few plants had indeed been eaten by deer, many survived and flowered, attracting not just pollinators, but many other insects and other wildlife as well. While I missed taking photos of the earlier blooming plants, here's just a few of the plants in bloom along with some wildlife, mostly pollinators. In addition, here's a short video showing just some of the more than dozen monarch caterpillars that were raised there:

     So take a photographic journey to the DPR Digs In Pollinator Patch and Monarch Way Station at Long Branch Nature Center to see what was in bloom and who was visiting them on just 2 days recently. You can only imagine all the wildlife that benefited that we are not aware of, but I thought I'd share a few plants and critters below.

A Bumblebee enjoys a meal on Green-headed Coneflower.
A Syrphid Fly, a fly who gets protection by mimicking a bee, pollinates a Tickseed Sunflower
An Ailanthus Webworm Moth enjoys a sip on a Thoroughwort.
A Spicebush Swallowtail enjoys a visit to a Cardinal Flower.
Locust Borer Beetles are yellowjacket mimics who enjoy Goldenrods.
Both a Sweat Bee and a fly share a Helen's Flower (Sneezeweed) bloom.

Lots of bees, like this Bumblebee, like Wingstem.
I missed the small solitary bees that usually the Bluecurls, a lovely little wild flower.

Didn't see who visited the Bluemist Flowers.
I wasn't there in the evening to catch the pollinators for Evening Primrose.
We had several species of Asters planted, most of which provide late season nectar sources for pollinators. 
While 19 caterpillar species may feed on New York Ironweed, 2 species of Melissodes bees have to have the pollen from it or they can't reproduce.

While we meant for this to be a pollinator patch, lots more than pollinators benefit, including wildlife who eat the the
                                                        plants like this Woolly Bear munching on a Eupatorium.

     So there you have a quick peek at the results of our pollinator patch for at least a couple of days worth of blooms. We're quite happy how it turned out, and so is our the wildlife it seems. Can't wait to see the results from this year's DPR Digs In volunteer day at Fort CF Smith! 

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