Friday, April 10, 2009

Chelone glabra shortage?

So last year I attended a talk by Doug Tallamy at Mt. Cuba in Delaware. He was giving a lecture and promoting his new book "Bringing Nature Home: How Native plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens" and one of the underlining themes of the night was just as the title suggests. Ways to make our land more sustainable to the native wildlife.

This need to own unique plants and have the best design around has gotten out of hand. These are often nonnative plants to the region, and offer nothing in the way of supporting nature. It starts with a few people importing a unique plant, growers then mass produce it and it's sold to the public who do little if any research on what they're buying other than the information tag which markets the plant's highlights.

The trouble with this starts with insects. Most of these nonnative plants are marketed as Pest Free. This is an awful lie but I won't get into that. The trouble is our native Lepidoptera (Moths and Butterflies) use native plants 40 to 1 as their hosts. This varies from species to species but what's imporant about these insects is they're abundant. It takes a hell of a lot more than bird seed to feed a baby bird. The lack of native plants has drastically damaged the population of our migratory bird populations as a result of all this landscaping.

So naturally after the talk everyone who attended the talk recieved a native plant. In this case it was Chelone glabra, White Turtle Head. The reason for this is they're trying to save a threatened species of butterfly, The Baltimore Checkerspot, Euphydryas phaeton. Naturally I was happy to plant a host plant to such a butterfly out in the garden. I can't say if it survived yet but I do see something growing where I put it. I'll post back later on.

Now as a rule to butterfly gardening they usually suggest that you have 3 to 5 of a single plant to really get the species's attention. And I have to say this is true for wildflower, perennials. (Trees don't worry about.) This applies for nectar plants as well host plants. My friend who has a single plant of Milkweed has never had a Monarch butterfly lay any eggs on her plant where as I get Monarchs every year becuase I have 4 milkweeds of one variety and recently added several others.

A story told at the lecture was how this butterfly wasn't seen in New Jersey for some years. But some garden center, (I wish I could remember the name) started selling it. Well suddenly they discovered all these caterpillars all over the plants and they had started spreading to other local plants. As it turns out the Baltimore Checkerspot is still here in NJ. And this is the entire reason this plant was given out.

The trouble I'm having is I can't find anyone selling White Turtle Head. I go to some very good plant nursuries, and websites, and they're all selling Red Turtle Head, which isn't used by the Baltimore Checkerspot. Or they're selling Physostegia virginiana which lookes just like White Turtle Head, but again, doesn't work. So this is all leading me to wonder if there isn't a mass shortage of this plant.

So if anyone out there can help me I would appreciated it.