Local Hunterdon County environmental organizations encourage use of native … – Hunterdon County Democrat

By Tish Lascelle

Hunterdon County has the highest number of invasive plant species among NJ’s counties! This is according to EDDMapS, a web-based mapping system for documenting invasive species.
Our county has 419 different invasive species – things like foxtail, garlic mustard and purple loosestrife. Some arrive here ‘innocently’ – seeds relocated by birds or with the wind. But often, as with bamboo, we have ourselves to blame. In our quest for beautiful gardens, aided by nurseries that bring in out-of-state plants, we have introduced many non-native species. These non-natives aggressively compete with and displace those that have co-evolved with plants and animals from our region and which are specifically suited to our habitat.

Hunterdon’s northwestern townships are in the Musconetcong watershed. Cinny MacGonagle, Master Gardener and Trustee at the Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) has seen numerous benefits to the Musconetcong River and its tributaries from MWA efforts to increase native plants along the river’s edge. “Shade from trees and shrubs lowers the river temperature for trout and other species that thrive in cool water. The plants are able to withstand high water flows and they have prevented erosion and silt from building up in the riverbed. Native plants are also excellent filters of pollution, keeping the river cleaner.”

Native plants are drought-tolerant and pest-resistant and have valuable advantages to us. You don’t have to live along a riverbed either. MacGonagle said, “Native plants have the genetic variability to fight disease and survive droughts. Because they require little or no need for fertilizers or pesticides, using them in your yard means less chemicals, less need to water and less contaminated water run-off that could reach your drinking water system.” Once native plants are established, there is generally no need to water between rainstorms. Less need to fertilize means less work for you and more protection of health for your children and pets.

Native plants are also essential to the wellbeing of our wildlife. The berries, nuts, flowers, nectar, stems, and leaves of native plants are an indispensable food source for hundreds of species of insects, birds, and other animals. Native plant habitats provide homes and shelter for numerous animals. Do you like to hear the birds sing in spring? Well, our songbirds need natives since they depend upon native-eating insects for protein to feed their young in spring.

Hunterdon County has several organizations that care deeply about removing invasive species and increasing native plants. As you plan your garden this spring or start getting back outdoors with your family, consider attending these events:

Native Plant Sale Saturday, April 26, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Musconetcong Watershed Association River Resource Center, 10 Maple Ave., Asbury, NJ. Call 908-537-7060 for more information.

Native plant sale will held on Sunday, April 27, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., at Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market, Dvoor Farm, Rt. 12 Circle, Flemington. Call 908-237-4582 for more information.

Invasive Plant Pull Volunteer Opportunity Saturday, May 31, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Hoffman Park, 26 Baptist Church Road, Hampton. Call 908-782-1158 for more information.

Tish Lascelle is a Hunterdon County resident and a trustee of the Musconetcong Watershed Association.


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