Monday, June 6, 2011

Midwest Native Plant Conference

Queen-of-the-prairie, Filipendula rubra, the official plant of this year's Midwest Native Plant Conference.

This is the third year for the conference, and if you have any interest in natural history and plants, you'll probably get a lot out of this event. The dates are July 8th thru 10th, and the location is the beautiful Bergamo Center in Dayton, Ohio, on the richly diverse grounds of the Mt. St. John Nature Preserve.

Swamp Rose, Rosa palustris. As the conference plant, Queen-of-the-prairie, is in the rose family, I've featured just a small smattering of Ohio's native roses in this post.

There are about 1,850 native plant species in Ohio, and many more if one takes the entire Midwest into account. Many of our natives are more showy and of greater interest than typical cookie-cutter non-native species commonly utilized in landscaping. Natives also have an enormous advantage in that our native insects are co-evolved with them, and that means much greater animal diversity, even if you live on a small suburban lot.

The gorgeous Canada plum, Prunus nigra, adding a jolt of snowy white to an early spring Ohio woodland. This small treelet is rare in Ohio, but like many of its plum compadres, is an attractive plant that also produces fruits that will eventually fuel birds and other wildlife.

Flowering raspberry, Rubus odoratus, which in my opinion is easily the most attractive of its ilk to be found in these parts. One of the staples of the Midwest Native Plant Conference is vendors of native plants. You'll be able to find and purchase many species of native flora. Maybe not all of these native roses that I'm sharing here, but there'll be a ton of stuff, including plants that you may well not even knew existed.

 Another beautiful shrubby rose family member, ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius.

The conference features a fine cast of speakers, covering a broad range of topics. Some of this year's subjects include the aster family, controlling weeds, butterflies, dragonflies, prairies, hummingbirds, orchids, and trees. We emphasize animals a lot, as native plants = animal diversity.

Goat's-beard, Aruncus dioicus, its thin spires of creamy-white flowers bursting outwards like a fireworks display. This semi-shrubby rose attracts insect pollinators like you wouldn't believe. The insect diversity, in turn, spawns a fascinating ecological food chain that rises to the level of birds such as the Summer Tanager. Even if this plant didn't do anything beyond look pretty, it'd still be worth having for its looks alone.

Not all roses are big and woody. This is a prostrate little herbaceous rose called silverweed, Argentina anserina.

Another conference fixture are field trips. Groups will visit some of the most interesting natural areas in west-central Ohio, including prairies and fens. The flora of these habitats is peak in mid July, and you'll be sure to see lots of interesting things. Expert guides lead every expedition, so little will be missed.

I really encourage you to attend the Midwest Native Plant Conference. Encouraging the use of native plants in the landscape is one of the most important things that we can do to help the environment, and this conference makes learning about plants - and acquiring them - easy.

The complete lowdown on the conference is RIGHT HERE, and click HERE for the registration page.

Hope to see you there!

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