Good things are happening in our meadows
The next time you are walking north on the eastern carriage road at Little Long Pond, look at the meadows to your left to see our most recent efforts to improve those areas for pollinators and other insects. The natural lands staff is planting native wildflowers in some of the meadows north of the Boathouse. These plants were raised from seed in our propagation facilities in Seal Harbor and were chosen because of their beauty and benefits to insect wildlife. Why plant new plants in our meadow? Good question! To answer that, it is important to understand that our meadows have their origins as 19th century farm fields and much of what is currently growing there are non-native grasses that were grown specifically for livestock forage. This worked well when people were feeding sheep and horses, but it is not ideal for the wild critters looking to make homes in our meadows.
Insects that directly or indirectly use our native wildflowers include beetles, bees, dragonflies, praying mantis, spiders, flies, butterflies, moths, ‘bugs’ (a unique type of insect), grasshoppers, wasps, and ants. When you account for the fact that some of those groups have dozens of species (flies, bees, and beetles for example), the list of meadow insects reaches well into the hundreds. These critters pollinate our plants and form the foundation of a vast food web. Native plants generally provide more and better resources to our native insects, so where it is feasible, we are slowly swapping out European grasses for native wildflowers. As an added benefit, our native wildflowers are more colorful and showier than the non-native grasses.
We planted Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod), Solidago rugosa (rough leaf goldenrod), Solidago juncea (early goldenrod), Symphiotrochum novae-angliea (New England aster), Doellingeria umbellata (flat topped aster), Anaphalis margaritacea (pearly everlasting), and Pycnanthemum virginianum (Virginia mountain mint). All are native to Maine and seed for all but the mountain mint was collected on Mount Desert Island. We are at the beginning stages of this work and will trial different native plants as we learn more about the meadow. We are also in the process of writing a meadow management plan that will guide this work. We expect the management plan to be completed next winter and anticipate a series of webinars and field walks aimed at sharing the information. Stay tuned.
By Tate Bushell, Director of Natural Lands