Conservation Society Restores Native Wildflowers

posted in: Local Conservation, Plants | 0

Here in the Field Conservation department, we know that real conservation can only be practiced with boots on the ground. That’s why we’re so excited to welcome volunteers from our Conservation Society to help us with labor-intensive field projects, as they did earlier this October at our Dunstable field site. We had more than two hundred native wildflowers to plant in three separate plots across the site, in order to make the field more hospitable to native pollinator insects, which in turn will help the plant community grow strong and attract other native wildlife. That’s 200+ holes to dig, fertilize, and fill with potted seedlings grown by our own staff and our friends at the Arnold Arboretum. Fortunately, our team of staff and volunteers were up to the challenge. 

About a dozen plastic plant trays full of potted plant seedlings sit out in a field of scrub oak and brown grass, along with fencing supplies and fertilizer.
There were plenty of plants to go around – this is only a small sample! In total, ZNE staff and Conservation Society members planted more than 200 native plants at our restoration site in Dunstable.

New England blazing-stars (Liatris novae-angliae) took center stage as the dominant plant for our restoration efforts. These brilliant purple wildflowers are a state Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts, and they do best in dry, sandy barrens – a perfect match for the cleared area at our Dunstable field site, where we collaborated with the town’s existing forestry plans to create a sandy clearing where box turtles could find ideal conditions for nesting. Blazing-stars are perennial plants that re-sprout every year from a corm that stores excess nutrients to support the plant through the winter and create new foliage in the spring.  

Two hands pack down the soil around a tall slender, plant stalk with lance-shaped leaves that bends towards the camera. Visible around the plant are a soil knife, trowel, and empty pot.
A volunteer plants the tall flowering stalk of a New England blazing-star in its new home.

Since we are always interested in bringing the best available science to our restoration projects, we also elected to create several separate plots for our blazing-star plantings. One plot would be fenced to exclude rabbits and other browsing animals, while the others would be left unfenced. This design will allow our staff to monitor the growth and vigor of the blazing-stars both with and without herbivore predation. In order to make this restoration experiment a reality, though, we needed the sweat and muscle of a whole team of volunteers. ZNE’s Conservation Society members joined us in the field to mix and spread fertilizer, dig holes for seedling plants, tag individual stems so their growth and survival can be tracked, and set up our experimental plots. Check out the photos below! 

Thanks to the hard work of these volunteers, hundreds of native wildflower seedlings are growing strong in their new homes and preparing for the winter ahead. In spring, we’ll get to witness the blossoming of this fantastic effort, as well as the native bees and butterflies that are sure to come in turn. If you’d like the opportunity to pitch in alongside our staff with field projects like this one, as well as getting access to exclusive lectures and member events, why not sign up for our Conservation Society? We’d be honored to have you along.