Visiting Laurel Hill Preserve

The Southern Piedmont Chapter’s recent visit to Laurel Hill Preserve was a fabulous walk amongst paths carpeted with Partridge Berry and Club Moss under a canopy of Bigleaf Magnolia Magnolia macrophylla.

JD mag mac
Bigleaf Magnolia canopy, photo by Jennifer Daggy

While we never made it to the biggest Bigleaf Magnolia on the site (shown below in a tree hug by Larry Mellichamp), our group enjoyed wandering in the forest under those massive leaves. Larry Magnolia macrophylla Best IMG_20170907_180951570

Partridge Berry Mitchella repens

Our hike was lead by Laurel Hill Farm owner, Amy Nason, and former NCNPS President, Dr. Larry Mellichamp. As Dr. M pointed out, this is such an important conservation site because Bigleaf Magnolia is only found in 5 counties between Statesville and York in the Carolinas. It’s always fun to learn botany factoids from Dr. M, for instance…Bigleaf Magnolia is distinctive because the leaves have ears, and is one of only 3 Magnolia with that distinctive trait. The other 2 are M. fraseri (found only in the mountains, bright red fruit cone) and M. ashei (found in a limited range in Florida, but grows well in the Piedmont, blooms at a young age).

On our way down to the swinging bridge over Long Creek, we were fortunate to happen upon a wooly aphid dance on a Beech Tree branch. The rich woods have benefited from the summer rains and our group spotted Beech Drops, Collinsonia, Hearts-a-Burstin’, Galax, Indian Ghost Pipe, and Sourwood.

Bigleaf Magnolia cone

Laurel Hill is a working farm in Gaston County with goats, chickens and pigs. Amy milks the goats daily and if you’re interested in some of her farm products such as goat milk and cheese or eggs, contact her to join her farm email list at Amy and her family encourage visitors and are planning an invasive work day in September.  There are several study sites on the property from area university graduate students looking at snail and mushroom populations.

IMG_5648Laurel Hill Preserve was put into the Catawba Lands Conservancy by Frank Ewing, the former owner, and we were fortunate to be joined on this hike by his daughter Robin Ewing. During their tenure the property was primarily used as a plant nursery. Since we just happened to be there on Hurricane Irma eve, Robin commented that Hurricane Hugo, in 1989 changed the landscape due to massive amounts of tree fall and possibly opened the canopy to a greater population of Bigleaf Magnolia with huge number of fallen trees leading to more light openings.



Native Plants Make Great Urban Neighbors

I have been impressed on several recent trips to New York City with the palette and emphasis on native plants in New York’s city parks. I’m not talking about the High Line, which in itself is a fabulous array of native plants in a linear park on an elevated rail bed. And I don’t even know if the High Line inspired the parks department or if they all just got Doug Tallamy’s message (Bringing Nature Home at the same time. But from Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary, to Governer’s Island new installation “The Hills”,

Governer’s Island in New York

or the waterfront park at Randall’s Island , New York City Parks department has installed some very impressive beds dominated by native plants.

Randall’s Island in New York City

Additionally impressive is that NYC Parks have planned for interpretive signage explaining what visitors are seeing and why it is important. These parks are attractive and inviting to both human and wildlife visitors. Some parks include both saltwater and freshwater mitigation and reclamation with appropriate signage explaining the process and identifying wildlife.

Wildflower Meadow signage, Randall’s Island

These beds are mixed among soccer fields, greenway paths, concert lawns, golf courses, baseball fields, picnic areas, and reclaimed land such as in The Hills.

All I can say is….C’mon Charlotte….take this as a challenge! Incorporate broad sweeps of locally sourced native plants that benefit wildlife, that are attractive and interesting and different. Almost all of the foliage beds in in ALL of the NYC parks that I have seen over recent years feature huge sweeps of Heuchera, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Lobelia, and many more native plants. Grasses are used extensively to blend the beds together. It’s inspiring on so many levels, and beneficial in a city, that is undoubtedly covered in concrete. Charlotte is the city of trees….but we can do so much more.


Hummingbird Festival 2017!

Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve, a Mecklenburg County park in north Charlotte hosts one of the best family friendly festivals in town each August. The main attraction is the banding of visiting hummingbirds  by local naturalists for study and tracking.  This year is the 10th anniversary of the festival, and over 2,100 people attended the festival and 17 hummingbirds were banded by Susan Campbell, local hummingbird expert. The family fun is extended with a variety of programs, presentations, interactive opportunities, booths offering environmentally friendly information to visitors…and of course FOOD!

The NC Native Plant Society booth staffed by Larry Mellichamp, Vicki Jo and Ronnie Franks, Allison Pittman, Tracey Grimm, and Beth Davis sold several hummingbird friendly plants including (click on the plant name to learn more in our Eco-Friendly Native Plant of the Month section):

Lonicera sempervirens  Coral Honeysuckle
Aquilegia canadensis Eastern Columbine








Salvia coccinea
Salvia coccinea Scarlet Sage
Lobelia cardinalis and ruby-throat from 204
Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower


If you missed the festival and would like to purchase hummingbird friendly plants for your garden for next year, be sure to put UNCC’s Fall Plant Sale on your calendar, October 13-14, 2017.

The NCNPS booth also entertained visitors with the fun and messy opportunity to make seed bombs to take home to start their own native plant garden. So easy to make with a little compost, clay, water and prairie seed mix and easy to take home in a hand decorated pot.image1

Thank you to Allison Pittman and Holy Angels in Belmont for donating Scarlet Sage plants and to Larry Mellichamp for donating Cardinal Flower plants for sale. Thank you to Carolina Heritage Nursery for supplying Coral Honeysuckle plants and donating a portion of the profit to NCNPS. Thank you to Will Stuart and Allison Pittman for sharing their photos.

The Ivy Issue and Mosquitos

Sometimes it really does feel as if English Ivy is taking over the South. Yes it is more attractive and better behaved than Kudzu, but only marginally. At the recent Cullowhee Native Plant Conference,  Eli Dickerson, Ecologist at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta talked about Fernbank’s efforts to tackle the years of English Ivy, in his presentation, “Saving an Old Growth Forest from the Vicious Grip of Invasive Plants.”

Fernbank owns a 67 acre urban old growth forest and Eli was hired to restore it to health. Fortunately for Fernbank, they were able to obtain grants to fund this expensive and labor intensive process. And a great deal of their efforts were spent tackling two common Piedmont invasive exotics–English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Monkey Grass (Liriope spicata).

IMG_5435With the help of a private contractor known as Machete Man, Trees Atlanta, and thousands of volunteer hours, they were able to begin to restore parts of the forest. Once the Ivy and Monkey Grass were cleared, Eli’s philosophy is to let nature take its course, and see what will emerge from the existing seed bank. You can see in the before and after photos below the results of all of this effort. If you are visiting Atlanta, I encourage you to visit Fernbank’s Nature Museum. 12c progress photos

Removing mosquito habitat

Controlling or replacing English Ivy and Monkey Grass can also help you with mosquito issues, because most pest control companies will target these areas in your yard with spray. Mosquitos love to live in the moist shady environment provided by this very thick ground cover. If you have felt that it is necessary to spray for mosquitos in your yard and have subsequently noticed fewer butterflies and other pollinators, removing this mosquito habitat might be an option to wide spread spraying, which harms all types of insects including the beneficial ones.

Native Alternatives to English Ivy

Eli Dickerson has graciously allowed us to share Fernbank’s list of native alternatives to English Ivy to help you with ideas for your own back yard.

Native groundcover alternatives to English Ivy:

Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia)
Carex species (C. plantaginea, C. flaccosperma)                                                     Green-and-Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)                                                        Mouse-Eared Coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata)
Galax (Galax urceolata)
Alum Root (Heuchera americana)
Wild Gingers (Hexastylis arifolia and Asarum canadense)                         Partridgeberry (Mitchella )
Moss Phlox or Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)                                               Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Lyre-leaf Sage (Salvia lyrata)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)
Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis)
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Moss (many species)

Deciduous groundcover options: Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens), Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris crestata), Deciduous Ginger (Asarum canadense), Broad Beech Fern (Thelypteris hexagonoptera), Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula).

Native vine groundcovers: Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Wood Vamp or native Climbing Hydrangea (Decumaria barbara), and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).

Compiled by Fernbank Museum of Natural History with resources from Georgia Native Plant Society. November, 2015. For more information, contact Used with permission.