Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

For Peat’s Sake: April Showers Bring May Flowers… and American Wetlands Month!

For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

April in Maine finished with above average temperatures and above average precipitation for most of the state. May is turning out to be very wet as well. Although the clouds and rain have been challenging to the psyche of most of us living in the Northeast, it has been well received by our flower friends who have relished the hydration with a few sunny days mixed in.  I was very excited to see the daffodil0504172Daffodils blooming along the side of my house last week. It’s always great fun to plant something in the fall and see it pop up so beautifully in the spring.  Tulips, Crocus’s, Bleeding Hearts, Forsythia, Azalea – all have been making their annual appearances around the southern Maine landscape.

I try to focus all my landscaping efforts on using perennial plants – partially because it means I don’t have to replant every year (aka I’m lazy) but also because they are often the gentlest option for the environment, although I am not as well versed in this topic area as I would like to be. My favorite coffee shop around the corner from our office is hosting a permaculture plant swap this weekend. Unfortunately I’m so new at this that I don’t have anything to swap. But perennial gardening in Maine is a popular activity and I am looking forward to learning more as I continue to add to my yard.

This time of year, many folks who are equally new to the whole landscape gardening hobby as I am, may get enticed by certain plants offered at garden supply stores and inadvertently purchase an invasive, non-native species. Sadly, many garden stores still sell these items despite the ample amount of evidence showing how much damage they can wreck on local ecosystems. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) adopted rules this January that prohibit the sale of 33 invasive terrestrial plant species. I encourage all of you to check with your state’s natural resources agencies to see if they have a similar plant list that can help protect you against accidentally continuing the spread of invasive, non-native species.

iris05041714There are many really great plant nurseries and garden centers around, however, which go out of their way to ensure you are purchasing native, non-invasive plants for your landscaping projects. I was excited to get an email recently from Environmental Concern, Inc., a 501(c)3 public not for profit corporation, that is dedicated to working with all aspects of wetlands, which had information about a two-day annual spring native plant sale happening in St. Michaels, Maryland. The email featured a native aquatic flowering plant called Iris Versicolor  which may be grown in up to 2-4” of shallow standing water. It’s an absolutely gorgeous plant and on my list now to find a good home somewhere around my house.

Wildflowers are one of my favorite wonders of nature – especially in the arid west. I had the good fortune of taking a one-day wildflower identification
coloradoclass while interning with the US Forest Service in Creede, CO right after college and I can tell you, nothing quite grabs your attention like a brightly colored Indian Paintbrush in the middle of the desert or a Colorado Columbine on a rocky slope at 10,000 feet. We also had a wonderful wildflower walk hosted by Elizabeth Byers (Senior Wetland Scientist, W.V. Department of Environmental Protection, Watershed Assessment Branch) at our annual State/Tribal/Federal Coordination meeting in West Virginia last month.

Did you know this week is National Wildflower Week (May 1-7)? According to the USDA, wildflowers “provide critical habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects and wildlife, which is important for ecosystem function and pollination. They can also improve soil health, prevent erosion, improve water quality, increase yields and enhance forage conditions for livestock.” So they are beautiful, magical workhorses, in other words.

No matter where you live in the U.S., I encourage all of you to go out and enjoy the May flowers in celebration of American Wetlands Month.  ASWM will be celebrating American Wetlands Month by posting fun facts, trivia, videos, etc. on its Facebook page Monday-Friday throughout the month. We’re also hosting a photo contest – click here for more information. So for Peat’s Sake, join the fun, go check out some gorgeous native flowers and tune in daily to the ASWM Facebook page!

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