Project underway to restore native plants

MOUNT DESERT — Have you ever wondered why there is no dogbane or pearly everlasting in the meadows at Little Long Pond? 

No, probably not. 

But to Tate Bushell, director of natural lands at the Land and Garden Preserve, which owns and maintains the property, the absence of these and some other native plants is significant and ought to be addressed. 

When farms were established around the pond in the early 19th century, exotic grasses – that is, those from away – began taking the place of native plants. 

“While these [exotic] plants no doubt served an important role when the land was under cultivation, they do not exactly fit in with our local ecosystem,” Bushell wrote in the Land and Garden Preserve’s online winter newsletter. 

“They did not coevolve with our local plants and animals and thus underperform as sources of food, shelter, pollen and nectar.” 

He said the bond between native plants and native wildlife is important. 

“Our goldfinch specializes on thistle; monarchs need the milkweed; willows flower first and feed the early-flying bees; and turkey, deer and bear rely on hard mast trees [those that produce acorns and other nuts] for survival.” 

Bushell said many species of native plants thrive in sunny meadows such as those at Little Long Pond, but some of the plants that one would expect to see there are missing. To correct that, the Land and Garden Preserve has begun a long-term effort to reestablish some native plants. 

“Our meadow restoration program will slowly decrease the area dominated by exotic plants and increase the area dominated by native plants,” Bushell said. “Our goal is not to get rid of every blade of timothy; rather it is to increase the meadow’s plant diversity to better support our wildlife.” 

The restoration effort began this past summer with the mowing of a few rectangular patches where various native species are being planted. 

“Every season we will gain more knowledge about what is working, and we will adjust,” Bushell said. “This work will take many years of experimenting in the meadows to see which plants thrive in which spots. Once we have a better idea of what will thrivewe will likely increase the scale of our restoration plots.” 

If the project is successful, it will not only benefit birds, bees and bears, but the flowering native plants will add color to the meadows.  

And for those who enjoy stopping to pick a juicy treat in late summer, Bushell added, “Our vast blueberry patches are native and here to stay.” 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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