Native plants support native animal populations
Steve Castorani wants gardeners to consider native plants for their gardens — but not only for their natural beauty.
“It's very important that we understand the role native plants play in our environment,” says Castorani, co-founder and president of North Creek Nurseries, co-owner of American Beauties Inc., and one of four speakers at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference next weekend.
The conference invites landscape professionals and horticulture enthusiasts to learn about ways in which well-designed landscapes can help to sustain the natural environment through lectures and discussions.
Castorani says there is a direct relationship between native-plant populations and the animals that share our environment. By reducing the quantity of native plants, food sources available to native birds and butterflies are reduced.
“In turn, this loss reduces the food source other animals depend on. It interrupts the food chain. Non-native plant species do not provide digestible tissue for our native insects and, in turn, the reduction of native insects reduces our native bird populations. Native birds require these insects to raise their young,” he says.
Native plants offer many other advantages, according to Castorani. They are adapted to our soils and climate, they require less care and watering when established, and they thrive with less fertilizer and disease control. He says Western Pennsylvania offers a wide range of native plants that thrive in our region. Some of his favorites include:
• White oak tree, which serves as a host plant for more than 500 species of butterflies and moth caterpillars.
• Red bud, a small, flowering tree that provides seeds for birds and a nesting place in the bark and leaf debris for insects
• High-bush blueberry, an edible plant for humans and birds with bright fall color
• Cardinal flower, a perennial and a favorite plant of hummingbirds
• Alum root, another perennial, that serves as an easy-to-grow woodland groundcover.
• Switch Grass, including new varieties with red highlights or steel-blue color, which adds texture and movement in the landscape.
Castorani also advocates using groundcovers rather than mulch to control weeds after plants are established, as groundcovers are more attractive and less expensive than spreading mulch yearly.
In addition to Castorani, other conference speakers include:
• José Almiñana, a principal for Andropogon Associates, one of the nation's premier landscape-architecture firms and leaders in ecologic design. Almiñana, lead CSL landscape architect for Phipps' new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, will discuss the project's net-zero water goal and implemented design strategies.
• Dr. Elaine Ingham, an internationally renowned soil microbiologist and chief scientist for the Rodale Institute, will provide an in-depth look at beneficial organisms, and explain how to harness their potential using compost extracts or teas to cultivate healthy soil and plants.
• Scott C. Scarfone, principal and founder of Oasis Design Group, who will discuss how society's renewed interest in ecology and natural processes is influencing current trends in landscape planning and design and his ideas on where this movement is headed.
Pre-registration for the Oct. 27 conference is required. The agenda includes check-in and light refreshments at 9 a.m., followed by presentations from 9:30 to 11:50 a.m.; a book sale, self-guided tours of Phipps' new Center for Sustainable Landscapes and lunch from noon to 1:15 p.m.; and lectures from 1:15 to 3:25 p.m.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- High-speed chase ends in Duquesne crash
- Steelers cut Scobee, sign free agent kicker Boswell
- Are Pirates better positioned to win it all this postseason?
- Kessel addition, better health could have Pens scoring like it’s 1990s
- New book credits Nunn for Steelers’ 1970s success
- Penguins at a glance entering 2015-16 season
- Diminishing number of pilots takes toll on small airports in Western Pa.
- Shaler man charged in death of girl, 6, not prosecuted in repeated alcohol cases
- WVU to host Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Saturday
- Pitt holds off Virginia Tech in ACC opener
- Girl battling cancer scratches item off bucket list with PNC Park trip