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ELA Ecological Plant Conference – 2020

Fri, December 4, 2020 @ 8:00 am EST - 4:00 pm EST

Click here for Conference Sponsorship Opportunities!

Innovative tools and interactive collaborations will ensure that this online conference provides participants with an engaging and inspiring experience.

With each change of season, our deep relationship with nature renews us and lifts our spirits. But this year with COVID threats and uncertainties, reconnecting with nature has taken on more significance than ever.

On the most basic level, plants nurture our bodies and souls. Our relationship with plants, however, is more complex than simply food and survival. For millennia, plant-based medicines have been used for healing and time spent in the forest or garden has been recognized for its ability to reduce stress while improving health and well-being.

Sustaining Sponsor

On December 4th, we invite you to spend a day reconnecting with familiar plants, learning about new plant options, exploring garden insects, and reconsidering our relationship to plants. Five experts will invite us to examine different attributes, uses, and values of plants and the insects that inhabit our gardens.

“I am not generally comfortable with the zoom meetings, but feeling the tech support person was there to help and direct any obstacles [created] a beneficial learning experience. I will do this again. Thank you ELA.”

How to Grow Food Anywhere
Dan Jaffe Wilder

With so much uncertainty in the modern world, the idea of being able to harvest a meal from your own landscape is an attractive one. However, both farming and wild foraging take time, land, and a large investment in learned skills.

Join Dan Jaffe Wilder, horticultural specialist and edible plant expert to learn how anyone, no matter their skill set or the land in front of them, can grow food.

Conservation Sponsor

With a mixture of native wild edibles brought home, a few lesser known non-native perennial crops, and a rundown on the most productive (and forgiving) of annual food crops we will cover those plants that produce regular harvests without the stress. We will cover plants for small urban spaces including container gardens, growing food in the shade, set-it and forget-it crops, as well as planting and maintenance techniques for filling our bellies.


Garden Insects: Good Bug? Bad Bug? Who’s Who and What Do They Do?
Nadia Ruffin

How well do you know the insects that inhabit your gardens? Can you tell the good bugs from the bad bugs? In this presentation, insect specialist Nadia Ruffin will discuss beneficial insects and will describe the vital functions that they perform in the environment. Beneficial insects pollinate crops, aerate soil, break down dead materials returning them to the earth, and serve as food for wildlife.

Restoration Sponsor

Nadia will explain the predator/prey cycle taking place in our landscapes, such as ladybird beetles and green lacewings that eat harmful pests to keep the environment in balance. This will include a discussion of the top predatory beneficial insects that we want in the garden as well as steps to draw them in and protect them.

Native Species, Hybrids, Selections and Cultivars
Uli Lorimer

Are gardens just for us or are they for all creatures great and small? The choices facing gardeners and designers can be overwhelming. What native plant is best for my situation? Are cultivars of natives the ecological equivalent to species? I am worried that I am not making the right choice.

Restoration Sponsor

With such a glut of options it can be difficult to sort out between the good, the bad and the heavily marketed. This talk will address some of the confusion surrounding this issue with the aim of leaving participants with a clearer sense of what is known, where more research is needed and how to be a savvy informed consumer.

Power to the Trees
Abra Lee

Restoration Sponsor

Ancestral connectors, fruit bearers, holders of signs and symbols, transporters of luck, providers of shade, guardians, mirrors, gathering spots. Trees enrich the environment and our soul.

Connections to trees are more than environmental, for many they are personal. Looking at trees through an intimate historical lens may be part of the solution to engage a new generation of tree huggers and advance future conservation efforts.

Pollinator Ecology
Rebecca McMackin

The vast majority of plants rely on pollinators to reproduce. From bees, to butterflies, to birds and bats, these pollinator partners shaped the evolution of flowers, giving us so much of the beauty we appreciate today. However, these exciting dynamics, in which a flower’s pollen is carried to a stigma, are fraught with trickery, bribery, thievery, and of course, salacious plant sex. Learn the basics of pollination ecology. Why do plants have flowers? How did they evolve? And specifically, what are flowers doing? Why are they so pretty and smell so good to us, non-pollinating primates? Certainly flowers are beautiful, but they are also complex communication appendages, sending scents out for insects to locate, directing flight patterns with well marked landing strips, deceiving gullible males to mate with them, all for the sake of pollination and thus, reproduction. Many lectures teach audiences who our pollinators are and how to encourage them. But this talk will focus on flowers, their functionality and communication. By the end of the presentation, you will be able to “read” flowers and come to know the true desires of the organisms you cultivate.

Speaker Bios

Abra Lee is from the University of Georgia, where she serves as an Extension Agent for Fulton County. Lee has worked in the green industry for 18 years, in both the public and private sectors, having held landscape manager positions for two international airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where she received the Urban Ag Council’s Grand Award. Lee is a graduate of the Auburn University College of Agriculture, and owns Conquer The Soil, LLC, a brand that focuses on gardens, fashion, and culture.


Uli Lorimer is the Director of Horticulture at the Native Plant Trust. Uli’s background in horticulture goes back to high school when he worked for local nurseries and noticed that every company was selling the same types of plants. That led him to seek out work with botanical gardens that specialize in growing and displaying plant species not found in most gardens. Thus began his fascination with plant diversity. His position as Director of Horticulture at Native Plant Trust is an ideal fit. Uli holds degrees in botany and horticulture from the University of Delaware which led to positions with the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C., Wave Hill in New York City, and the Brooklyn Botanic garden. During his 14 years with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Uli broadened his native plant knowledge and fascination with where and how native species grow in the wild.


Rebecca McMackin is Director of Horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, NY. She is an ecologically obsessed horticulturist and garden designer. By day, she is the Director of Horticulture for Brooklyn Bridge Park, where she manages 85 acres of diverse parkland organically and with an eye towards habitat creation for birds, butterflies, and soil microorganisms. In her imaginary free time, Rebecca writes about landscape management and pollination ecology, as well as designs the occasional garden. She sits on the boards of Metro Hort Group and Ecological Landscape Alliance, and is a NOFA-certified Landcare Professional as well as an ISA-certified Arborist.


Nadia Ruffin is an entomologist, gardener, and educator and holds degrees in Agriculture and in Entomology. She is the founder of Agricademy Inc, Quiwi Produce, and Urban Farm Sista based in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to farming and research, Nadia’s mission is to bring together and educate urban and rural communities to share her knowledge and passion for the biological world and to instill curiosity as she connects youth and adults to the wonders of healthy food and nature’s beauty. Nadia is also an author and has published articles for The Dirt on Organic Gardening and for Rodale publications. In 2018, a resolution from Cincinnati City Council honored Nadia’s farming practices, agriculture initiatives, and community outreach.

Dan Jaffe Wilder is a photographer and author. He earned a degree in botany from the University of Maine, Orono, an advanced certificate in Native Plant Horticulture and Design from Native Plant Trust (formally New England Wild Flower Society), and has years of nursery management and plant sales experience. He is passionate about ecological horticulture, building both sustainability and wildlife value into every landscape, and the foraging and cultivation of wild edible plants. He is the Horticulturalist and Propagator for Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary and the staff photographer. His book Native Plants for New England Gardens was released spring of 2018.

Continuing Education Credits

Continuing Education Credits are being offered for by the following organizations: APLD (5.0), NOFA (5.0), LA CES (5.0), MNLA (1), and MCLP Education Credits (2.0)


8:30-9:00        Check-in and tech check

9:00-10:00      Dan Jaffe Wilder – How to Grow Food Anywhere (60 minutes)

10:15-11:15       Nadia Ruffin – Garden Insects: Good Bug? Bad Bug? …  (60 minutes)

11:30-12:30     Uli Lorimer – Native Species, Hybrids, Selections, and Cultivars (60 minutes)

12:30-1:15       Lunch break, Speaker Garden, Sponsor Spotlight, networking and virtual booths

1:15-2:15          Abra Lee – Power to the Trees (60 minutes)

2:30-3:30        Rebecca McMackin – Pollinator Ecology (60 minutes)

3:30-4:00        CEU processing, networking


Fri, December 4, 2020
8:00 am EST - 4:00 pm EST
Event Category:


ELA Office
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