Thursday, August 22, 2013


We are surrounded by Green Concrete. It is found in parks, play grounds, people's yards, schools, corporate headquarters and college campuses throughout America. It encircles our homes in small towns, rural areas and the big cities.

So how do we humans react to Green Concrete? What else? We turn it into a money making proposition. We pay to have it "installed"; we fertilize it to make it greener; we buy water to keep it green; we spend MILLIONS of dollars for toys to keep it in its place; we use MILLIONS of gallons of oil and natural gas products to maintain it and then complain because it makes us work TOO hard.

The modern American landscape is covered with Green Concrete. We raise 40 million acres of it (you can call it lawn, I prefer green concrete) every year. Have you tried eating the grass in your yard lately? Right , it tastes awful. Guess what, nothing eats it unless you import sheep or cows. Oh, I take that back---Canada Geese love it and you can find lots of poop as evidence.
The only thing more sterile than the American lawn is concrete or blacktop. If a "weed" or "bug" appears we spray it. We add fertilizer to make it greener. We water it when it gets dry and complain when we have to mow it.

Why not "plant" green astro-turf?---it stays green, needs no water or fertilizer and you never have to mow it. Damages from lawn maintenance: The fertilizers and sprays pollute our water ways; the fumes from the mowers create air pollution; the fuels and chemicals used to maintain it are mostly derived from fossil fuels; the noise is annoying and damaging to our hearing; watering lawns is a waste of precious water; turf absorbs very little runoff from rain storms; and worst of all, almost nothing can use it as a home.

So, I say look at your landscape and eliminate some of your lawn. Replace it with native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. The changes will amaze you. You will get insects, birds, mammals and other creatures visiting you and enjoying the habitat that your work has created. Join the native plant movement.

Your world will thank you.



The white milkweed I call "The Ghost Plant" was discovered in southern Lebanon County on Pennsylvania Game Land # 145, in July of 2007. It produced one flower with one seed pod in 2007, one flower with no seed pod in 2008, one flower with four seed pods in 2009 and nine flowers with eleven seed pods in 2010. I was able to collect all the pods this plant  produced over those four growing seasons.  In 2011 the plant was destroyed after it formed buds---probably by a deer. In 2012 it came up and produced some blooms, but it was  mowed off  before the pods could be collected.  This year (2013)  there were 4 stalks and 5 flowers.  I visited the site with a PGC staff member and we flagged the plant, so hopefully it will survive until Fall when we can collect the seed pods.

While visiting the area we observed  perhaps a dozen Purple Milkweed plants blooming and much to my surprise  we found a second White Purple Milkweed plant blooming. It had two stalks and one flower and was at least a quarter mile from the original 2007 plant.

SECOND "GHOST" in SGL 145---2013

At about the same time I received an E-mail from Louise Schaeffer at Edge Of Woods Native Plant Nursery and it included three photos of a White Purple Milkweed growing and blooming in a bed of Purple Milkweeds which had the normal purple  color.


So now we have three plants  that are white.  I believe the seed for these plants came  from the original purple colored population in Game Land 145. WOW!!

So what is this plant? It does not appear to be  White Milkweed (Asclepias variegata).  The consensus among those who have seen photos of this plant or have seen it first hand, is that these specimens are a "white" variety of the Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens).

From 2007 until 2010 I collected, cleaned and either planted or distributed the seed to individuals and organizations interested in propagating interesting native plants.

In 2009 I found the plant when is was forming buds and kept tabs on it all summer as it went through its life cycle. It produced one flower and four fully mature seed pods which I collected on October 1, 2009.

The four seed pods produced by "The Ghost" in 2009 had a total of 465 seeds. I distributed the seed to a variety of organizations interested in native plant propagation, including The Brandywine Conservancy, The Mt Cuba Center, Bowmans Hill Wildflower Preserve and Fort Indiantown Gap. In the Spring of 2010, I planted some of the seed in pots and was able to keep about 30 of the plants alive all summer. I planted most of the plants at two locations on Pa State Gamelands. Both sites were cleared and specially prepared for the plantings. One was on SGL 145 near Mt Gretna, PA in Lebanon County and the other was near the Visitor Center at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in northern Lancaster County. Both locations are isolated from the Purple Milkweed populations, so we should get some idea of what these plants will look like in a couple of years.

The question was---"Will the offspring of "The Ghost" produce white flowers or not?

The only clue beside flower color  is the  midrib of the leaves.  All the leaves of the  "The Ghost" have WHITE (no Pink) midribs. The seedlings that I grew from this plant in 2010 had pink leaf midribs like the original Purple Milkweed. During the summer the deer ate these plants, so I was unable to see them actually bloom.

Until this Summer the only report I had received since 2010 was from Mark Gormel of the Brandywine Conservancy,  His report indicated that all the seed from "The Ghost" produced Purple Milkweeds with the usual purple color.


Stay tuned.


In my opinion, the current method of planting trees and shrubs in riparian buffers of streams to improve water quality and control the nutrients entering the Chesapeake Bay is not working. There is no question that a thick natural forest ecosystem along a stream is the ideal. A forest is made up of thousands of organisms from bacteria and molds to woodland asters to giant willows and oaks. These complex ecosystems have evolved over thousands of years and can not be created just by planting a few trees and shrubs---it will take generations to return these areas to something resembling the pristine past.

Meanwhile there is the normal die-off of plantings, costs of materials such as tree tubes and stakes aa well as the high cost of herbicides and labor to control the variety of invasive plants growing in these landscapes.

In South Londonderry Township in southwestern Lebanon County, PA, where I live, one riparian buffer project is an example of what happens when there is no real follow through with maintenance.In 2004 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation spent $12,000 to plant, stake and tube about 100 trees and shrubs in the Kreider’s Glen Natural Area in Campbelltown. No maintenance was done and in a recent survey only about half of the plants had survived. If 50 trees survived that is $240/tree. In the current economic times this is NOT cost effective. Recently I visited the site and discovered a Silver Maple growing in a tree tube had died---it was about 7 feet tell.

I removed the tube and discovered an active mouse nest inside the tube at the base. The tree had been girdled by the rodents. I decided to remove the other remaining tubes and discovered three more of the trees had rodent nests inside the tubes and had also been chewed.

I have been planting native wildflower and warm season grass meadows for the past ten years. I have assisted landowners plant meadows in York, Wayne, Huntingdon, Cumberland, Lancaster and Lebanon Counties in PA. These have ranged from as small as 300 square feet in a backyard to more than 2 acres. The plant seeds used in these activities were native to Pennsylvania and were collected, cleaned and planted by volunteers using the hand broadcast method. Each meadow was different, but the mixes used included at least 40 to 60 native wildflowers and 6 to 12 native grasses.

My suggestion:

In riparian stream buffer areas where controling erosion and nutrient runoff is the goal, plant native wildflower and warm season grass meadows in conjunction with shrub and tree plantings.


1. Plant a meadow of native wildflowers and grasses on the selected site FIRST. Depending on the plant mix used the plants can get four to eight feet tall and grow quite thick. Most of the plants I work with do not appeal to deer and they produce a multitude of seeds for any rodent interested. Once the meadow has matured in 2 to 3years then go to the next step.

2. Once there is sufficient growth, plant the trees and shrubs right in the meadow. They will not need to be staked, the vegetation will hold them up, There will be little need for herbicides, because the thick native meadow vegetation will smother out most invasive plants. I believe voles and mice will have so much to eat, that an occasional woody plant will not interest them. Deer damage will be less because they are basically lazy and eat what is easy to get and with the trees and shrubs in thick vegetation they will not bother them. If you plant hardy native woody plants, they will soon stand above the meadow plants and eventually through the natural process of succession the site will become a forest.

I am not sure of the costs, but considering you can establish a meadow in one summer and a forest will take a generation, this method of establishing buffers along streams and wetlands makes a lot of sense.

The Ecological Effects:

With a native plant meadow, you have food, cover and general habitat for a whole host of creatures including butterflies, bees, birds and mammals---all of whom are losing habitat as we develop areas for human use. The addition of native trees and shrubs will accelerate the move from farm field or pasture to a natural, diverse ecosystem. Using this method of stream clean up benefits all the living organisms in this intricate ecosystem from the butterflies of Lebanon County to the crabs crawling around in the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.