The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Tompkins County residents bloom with excitement over native plants

Informational signs were put on display across the Grow Wild Native Plant Nursery to teach people about native plants, pollinators and restoration efforts. (Clare Shanahan/Ithaca Week)
In August and September, Tompkins County is typically awash with native plants like yellow goldenrod and purple asters. The plants dot hillsides, the edge of roads and fill the fields of Grow Wild Native Plant Nursery in Brooktondale. On Sept. 29 Grow Wild and Tompkins Pollinator Pathway co-hosted an end of season event called “Goldenrod and Asters” to celebrate the beautiful plants and the work the two organizations do.

The “Goldenrod and Asters” event

Deanna English stands in one of her meadows at Grow Wild Native Plant Nursery
Deanna English is the owner of Grow Wild Native Plant Nursery. (Clare Shanahan/Ithaca Week)

About 40 people gathered at the “Goldenrod and Asters” event to learn about native plants and Grow Wild’s restoration and sustainability efforts. For the event, Deanna English, owner of Grow Wild, led guests on a tour around the property, showing off her various native plant meadows and restoration projects.

English combined teaching about the nursery with leading educational activities for the group. As the tour began, she instructed guests to find a partner and share a memorable experience they have had in nature. English’s own story came from an experience early that morning.

“The whole house was like glowing,” English said. “We had this enormous full moon and I experience that up here [on the property] —  that’s one of the joys of being up here.” 

English also provided advice for how to best maintain native plant gardens.

One meadow was full of clover and English explained that there had been no clover in the seed mix she had planted. She said this was because there must have been a large natural bank of clover seed in the area. 

“This worries me every year I do this, because when you have this kind of thickness it’s hard for the little guys to grow up in it,” English said. 

She said it is important to keep meadows in their first year of growth, like the one in question, mowed to a height of about eight inches so that weeds don’t grow up and suppress other native plants. 

A guest at the event uses a small pair of clippers to cut a native plant in a meadow.
Guests travelled into the meadows and chose one unfamiliar plant to cut at the end of the tour. (Clare Shanahan/Ithaca Week)

The tour concluded with a second activity; guests were instructed to explore the meadows and find a plant they did not immediately recognize to bring back to the group. They then gave the plant a name based on its appearance; names included golden star flower, purple saguaro and black-topped needle leaf.

The “golden star flower” was cut by one guest who identified that the plant looked like it had many small stars in its center. (Clare Shanahan/Ithaca Week)

Guests at the event included children, educators, native plant experts and curious Tompkins County residents. 

Nancy Skipper said she attended the event because she worked with Brandon Hoak, communication and outreach manager and native plant specialist at Tompkins Pollinator Pathway, to put in a pollinator bed on her property.

“I’ve learned so, so much from him, and he told me about this event today, and I just wanted to come and look around and learn,” Skipper said. “It’s a whole new world for me, I really really love it.”

Tompkins Pollinator Pathway

Tompkins Pollinator Pathway, a co-host of the event, is a local chapter of a national organization that aims to create native plant corridors to help pollinators thrive. 

According to Pollinator Pathway, pollinators are crucial to upholding food systems and ensuring human survival because they pollinate the plants we rely on and allow them to reproduce. This is especially important today as pollinators are increasingly threatened by development and changing global temperatures.

A field of native plants is seen with tall trees in the background.
An organically managed plot of native plants can be important habitat for pollinators. (Clare Shanahan/Ithaca Week)

A Pollinator Pathway is a responsibly managed area of native plants that is maintained organically and therefore creates an ideal habitat for pollinators. Native plants are necessary to this process because they are what native pollinators have evolved to rely on for survival.

Brandon Hoak said Tompkins Pollinator Pathway is only about a year-old and for the past year has worked to encourage the community to focus on pollinators and to link gardens around Ithaca and Tompkins County to create a pathway. 

“We rarely think about the fact that so many pollinators, especially our native pollinators, do have a very significant role in pollinating the crop species that we rely on, as well as wild crop species,” Hoak said. “People who forage or who get other food from the land and the woods rely on that, or even in your own vegetable or fruit garden.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *