The Wildflower Book East of the Rockies

The Wildflower Book East of the Rockies - Gardening Book

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The Wildflower Book East of the Rockies:
An Easy Guide to Growning and Identifying Wildflowers

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by Donald and Lillian Stokes

ISBN 0316817864
95 pages, 8-1/2 x 11, Paperback.

Excerpt from The Wildflower Book East of the Rockies


The Ecological View

As the human race matures in its understanding of ecology, it becomes increasingly clear that to save species of plants and animals we must save a critical mass of their environments. Nothing lives in isolation from other things; everything is interconnected.

This is especially true of wildflowers. Many of our native species are dwindling in number as human activity diminishes or destroys their environments. The prairies are a good example; they used to cover millions of acres in the Midwest, but now there are only a few areas where they can be seen. Accordingly, many of the plants that grew in them are now rare in the wild.

Thus, we must conserve the species and the habitats in which they live. To paraphrase the pioneer conservationist Aldo Leopold, "A good tinkerer never loses any of the parts." As we "tinker" with the environment, we should be sure not to lose any of the species that are a part of it.

It is equally true that on a larger scale each habitat is an irreplaceable part of the whole organism we call earth. This view of the earth as an organism is the next step humans need to take and one we are on the threshold of accomplishing.

Some people point out that we need to save wildflowers for the things that they may be able to offer medicine or industry, as if their use to humans is the main reason to save them. An even more important reason is that they are an integral part of our habitat. And when our own habitat is endangered our survival is in jeopardy.

What Can We Do?

There is no need to feel helpless when it comes to preserving wildflowers, for there are many easy steps that each of us can take, some right in our own backyards.

The first thing to do is join your local wildflower or native plant society. These organizations need your support, and they will also sensitize you to the conservation needs of your area.

Next, look closely at your own backyard. You may be surprised by what is already growing there. We have a swampy area on our property that we rarely venture into, but when we went in to look it over, we found Canada lilies, Jack-in-the-pulpits, and false hellebore already growing there.

In addition to discovering plants, you will most probably want to introduce some additional wildflowers on your property, no matter how small it is. Wildflower gardening is sometimes considered a special sort of hobby, but it is really no different from other gardening; it just happens to focus on native plants. You may want to augment the wildflowers that are already growing at the edge of your lawn; you may want to add wildflowers to a woodsy place where many other plants have trouble growing; or you may want to make a complete wildflower garden or meadow.

Where to Get Wildflowers

If you want to grow wildflowers on your property, you will need to acquire them first. People used to collect plants from the wild, but today this is frowned upon by conservationists. Even when you buy plants from a nursery, you should ask the owner if the plants were nursery-propagated or dug from the wild. In almost all cases, lady's slippers and trilliums are dug from the wild. You can help preserve wildflowers by being a choosy shopper and only buying plants from those nurseries and native plant societies that propagate their own wildflowers. (Contact your local native plant society for recommended nurseries, or send for the list compiled by the New England Wildflower Society—see Resources, page 94. The wildflowers in this book that are most often dug from the wild are identified in the index.)

In addition, do not pick wildflowers indiscriminately, for this can damage the plants and reduce their seed production. And always ask permission before picking flowers from private or public land. Feel free to pick from your own garden, but in the wild, remember that every picked flower means fewer seeds for maintaining that species.

Native Versus Alien

Native wildflowers are species that grow and reproduce in a particular place and were not brought there by humans. Alien plants are species that evolved in different habitats or regions and were brought to the new area either inadvertently or on purpose by humans.

The concept of native versus alien is important in wildflower conservation, since habitats are often delicately structured and the introduction of an alien species can upset that structure by crowding out native plants. As you grow wildflowers, continue to increase your awareness of which are native and which are alien. By favoring native species on your property, you can aid in preserving the diverse and complex habitats upon which we all depend.

© 1992 by Donald & Lillian Stokes. Used with permission.

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