Sunday Jan. 8, 2017 – The Butterfly Highway

NCNPS-Southern Piedmont Chapter January Meeting

Angel Hjarding will share the Butterfly Highway creation story, and explore how NCNPS members can become more involved in our local communities. Angel is in the process of completing her doctoral degree in Geography from the University of North Carolina Charlotte. As a part of her doctoral research, she conceptualized the Butterfly Highway as a way to bring beautification to underserved urban neighborhoods and create opportunities for residents to reconnect with nature. Since joining NCWF, the Butterfly Highway has grown from 50 residential gardens to over 1,300 gardens across NC. To learn more about the many projects Butterfly Highway has completed this year visit the Butterfly Highway page on the NCWF website or follow The Butterfly Highway on Facebook.


Angel will have Butterfly Highway custom seed mix packets for sale, $5.00 each. You can learn more about the seeds in these packets at the NC Wildlife Federation website.


Date: Sunday, January 8

Time: 2:00-4:00

Location: Reedy Creek Nature Center,2900 Rocky River Rd. Charlotte, NC 28215


News and Upcoming events:

If you are looking for any recent copies of the Bird Friendly Native Plant of the Month flyer, they are all listed in our blog to give you great ideas while you sit inside this winter dreaming of where to put your shovel in your garden next spring! It’s too early to plant, but not too early to plan!!

Mecklenburg County Soil and Water Conservation District Tree and Seedling Sale 2017

Leslie Vanden Herick and her team at MCSWCD always have a great selection of native trees and shrubs to offer at really affordable prices. And if you pre-order you can skip the line and pick them up Friday, Feb. 24. More details and order forms are on our new Southern Piedmont Chapter blog. Or you can go directly to the MCSWCD to find the form.

Volunteer Opportunties in 2017!

NCNPS-Southern Piedmont Chapter is enthusiastically making plans to engage with our communities in 2017 and we need you! Our biggest volunteer need is Earth Day, April 22, when our chapter participates in numerous festivals and events throughout the region. Please mark your calendars now and plan to help us out to staff a table or booth. Materials are provided, and our community loves to talk about NC native plants!

Our first local event is staffing a table at the MCSWCD Tree Seedling Distribution on Saturday, Feb. 25, 9-12 Noon  at the Hal Marshall Center in uptown Charlotte. We need 2-3 people to cover half shifts. If you have time to volunteer please email

UNCC Certificate in Native Plant Studies

Don’t miss this opportunity to enroll in Botany for Gardeners and Naturalists, Jan. 28-29, the introductory course and pre-requisite for many of the other courses throughout the year. Visit the UNCC Botanical Gardens website for more details and to sign up online. You may know the instructor….our very own NCNPS President, Dr. Larry Mellichamp!

Eco-Friendly Native Plant of the Month

Eco-Friendly gardening–what is it and why do we do it? There are many ways to be Eco-Friendly in the world today. Native Plant lovers often find their passion in creating home gardens with native plants, and find their reward in attracting birds, butterflies, pollinators and wildlife. The benefits of providing food and shelter for our neighbors-furry, feathery, scaly and more- is that we often are able to observe them up close, providing constant entertainment and beauty. Fellow NCNPS member and photographer Will Stuart often generously shares his photos of both native plants and their visitors. Note the tiger swallowtail butterfly on the Echinacea purpurea in the photo above.

Campsis radicans with hummingbird by Will Stuart

One of the goals of the North Carolina Native Plant Society is to educate our community about easy and successful ways to do that (be eco-friendly). Our monthly Bird Friendly Native Plant of the Month series gets a new name in 2017, moving to the more broadly encompassing Eco-Friendly theme. These flyers will continue to be posted on this blog and on our website.

NCNPS members often pass around favorite websites for learning more about plant culture and growth habits, plant lists, habitat lists etc. We offer a few of those to you below, and encourage you to share your favorites in the comment sections!

Native Plant gardening type sites:

Bird lover sites:

  • Cornell University has lots of information about ways to attract birds
  • Audubon Society is doing a great job of compiling information about Bird Friendly native plants and we credit them for getting us started on this theme!
  • Birds and Blooms is a fun site to use to think about specific bird and plant interactions
  • Nature Conservancy and Cornell have created a Habitat Network yard map project that provides a variety of information

Insect lover sites:

Ilex verticillata with Northern mockingbird by Will Stuart

Native Plant seed propagation

When the temperatures start to drop in late fall, early winter some native plant geeks tend to get extra excited….because it’s time to start seeds for next spring. While we are fully aware that it often takes 2 years to get flowers from locally started seeds, it doesn’t matter. Each year we eagerly sow a new crop of “babies” to tend and nurture. The NC Native Plant Society-Southern Piedmont Chapter holds an annual seed exchange at the December meeting. Members are encouraged to bring cleaned, identified and native to the Southeast or US seeds (North Carolina preferred). This is a wonderful opportunity to try new species and share our favorites with fellow “native plant geeks” (NPGs).

Starting native plants from seed can be a little tricky, and it’s true there is no simple one step to success. In fact, fellow NPGs can spend many hours at native plant gatherings discussing the best ways to find success with specific seeds. The NCNPS site, lists two of our favorite texts for seed starting advice. Many members also refer to William Cullina’s Wildflowers book for propagation directions.

However, here are some general steps to native plant seed starting success:

  1. Determine if the seeds need cold stratification (a cold moist period of under 40 degrees, typically 1-2 months)
  2. If cold stratification is necessary plan to spread in the seeds on pre-moistened seed starting soil mix. Lynda Waldrep, Triad NCNPS member has perfected a method of starting seeds in milk jug “mini-greenhouses” as shown in the photo below. This allows a moist environment and reduces the need to constantly water your seed tray all winter.

    Milk jugs and salad containers used to start native plant seeds.
  3. Lightly cover the seeds with soil or light sprinkling of sand or grit to keep them in contact with the moist soil mix.
  4. LABEL your seed tray immediately. Seeds all start to look alike after a while!
  5. Set the seed tray outside if possible, protected in some way from squirrels who love love love to dig in fresh potting soil. Wire mesh, another seed tray, or a plastic tent-like cold frame will allow the seeds to sprout as the weather warms.
  6. Check frequently to be sure the soil is evenly moist, not soggy, and not too dry.
  7. Once the seedlings have 2 true leaves, the seedlings can be transplanted to small pots (1″ or so) to begin the “potting-up” process.

    Various recycled plastic containers for seed, and potted up seedlings on bottom shelf.
  8. If your seeds prefer to wait until warm weather, 70 degree days-May or June time frame, follow the steps above, and you will typically have seeds sprouting within 1-2 weeks.

Notes:  Yes, you can sprinkle native plant seeds on the ground and hope they come up in the spring. However, many of us have had disappointing results with this method. Critters tend to eat or scatter or bury them. Leaves often cover them, keeping out sunshine and trapping too much moisture. It does work, but NPGs tend to prefer the seed tray method for higher success rates.

The above list is just the tip of the iceberg in native plant seed success. But all it takes is one tray of successful “babies” to make it to blooming wildflowers and you will be hooked. Either proudly showing off your results in your own garden, or you will soon become one of the contributors of native plants at the annual Plant Sale at the Summer picnic next year!! Good luck!