I’ve been spending the week tuned into a discussion of ways ordinary people can make a difference to preserve our birds, pollinators and important native plants. Sponsored by the Xerxes Society and the
Pollinator Friendly Alliance, farmers, suburban park workers, and road crews who are working to create native pathways, have been discussing their methods to restore native plants and pollinators.

They have also been telling us how important the health of our soils is to long term survival of the earth’s ecosystem. Of course, a major step is limiting our use of insecticides and other poisons which we apply in huge quantities with little regard for our environment and our own health.

My daughter remarked that usually the red wing blackbirds are the first birds to return to her farm here in West Virginia. She has not seen them yet, and is becoming concerned. Since we have lost over 25% of our
bird population in the last 20 years, she is worried that “her” red wing blackbirds have died somewhere along their winter migration.

Creating small patches of native plants will help to create pathways for animals to survive. Native plants create food for our insects, such as caterpillars. These caterpillars feed the birds. They also provide nesting
sites for the many birds that nest near the ground. These same caterpillars grow into the beautiful butterflies that we all enjoy.

Methods to knock out invasive species from Asia and Europe is one of the topics covered in this conference. Species such as buckthorn are quick to out-compete native plants. Roundup is often used, but, Roundup
also kills many plants that make their homes in the soil. Mowing and limited burning, seem to be the 2 most consistently useful ways to encourage native plants and to keep the intruders suppressed. In my little
garden, I don’t mow or burn, I just cut the intruding weeds with clippers.

Even small garden plots can sustain many beneficial insects. And the birds will follow. I have planted many prairie seeds and been frustrated when they take 2 years to germinate. I have learned the value of patience.
Just when I think I have wasted my money on prairie seeds, a beautiful goldenrod appears. Butterflies find it right away. Now my Queen of the Prairie is spreading happily in a wet Wisconsin area. I am excited to help
my daughter start some growing in her wet West Virginia meadow.

Prairie seed and native seeds and plants are easy to purchase online. Request native plants at your nursery. Our local hardware store has only Asian and European fruit trees? These trees will not nurture our American butterflies and birds. Birds and butterflies are fussy eaters and will select only what they know. Without enough food they do not become healthy. Some die.

So when you plant native flowers, consider that you are starting a grocery store for butterflies and bees. Your small patch is one of the things we can do to help restore our native environment. Plant them among other
flowers, and the pollinators will still find them. Butterflies are smart shoppers and can find their favorite flower even when it is mixed in with other plants.