ELA invited a couple of members to identify the “weeds” they like to leave in the landscape for their habitat value.
Leslie Duthie, Horticulturist, Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary, Wales, MA
Ellen Sousa, Garden Coach, Designer, and Author, Turkey Hill Brook Farm, Spencer, MA
Leslie: I have put some thought into this and realized that there is not much that I “weed out” of my garden unless it is
We all know that a weed is just a plant out of place and something that might not be appropriate in one space, is perfectly fine in another. That being said, I met someone in the store the other day who took our asters and goldenrods class at Norcross, and he told me that he always thought of asters as weeds.
So, my answer is native aster species. Especially some of the small Symphyotrichum species such as S. racemosum (small white aster), S. dumosum (bushy American aster) and S. lateriflorum (calico aster). These species may not be the showiest, and they may be a bit “weedy,” but they have important ramifications for fall wildlife. The small asters provide some nectar and pollen for late season pollinators, but to me the most important part is that many of these species provide rich, oily seed needed for fall songbird migration. The seeds of Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, and Oclemena are important sources of high-energy food for the birds. You often see a variety of sparrow species looking for these seeds at this time of year. It is important not only for birds that are moving south from here, but also those which have travelled from the north to arrive here.
Ellen: We covet our native Joe Pye Weed (Eutrychum maculatum), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), American Aster (Symphyotrichum), Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), and Violets (Viola sororia) because of their tremendous value to pollinators, plus they love to inhabit areas next to our barns and paddocks where we struggle to cultivate anything but “weeds.”
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