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Dig into a Book!
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
The author is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a Native American people originally from the Great Lakes region. Robin is a mother, scientist, writer and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at The State University of New York (SUNY) in Syracuse, New York. She serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Nature and Humans and is a founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. Her other writings include numerous scientific articles and the book Gathering Moss. As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She has a Ted talk entitled: Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest and many Youtube videos of her lectures.
A Brief Description
The book is “a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world. This braid is woven from three strands; indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of a Native American scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most. It is an intertwining of science, spirit, and story.”
My favorite chapter is entitled Asters and Goldenrod. Robin had all of her “answers prepared for the college freshman intake interview to the question “So, why do you want to major in botany?” So I told him the truth. I wanted to learn about why asters and goldenrod looked so beautiful together. “I must tell you that THAT is not science. That is not at all the sort of things which botanists concern themselves.” “I’ll enroll you in General Botany so you can learn what it is.” Once enrolled, her adviser told her “if you want to study beauty, you should go to art school and that science was not about beauty, not about the embrace between plants and humans.”
What I Learned
1) “science also tells us that the two colors of purple asters and yellow goldenrod, having reciprocal colors in human and bee eyes and growing together, attract a greater number of pollinators than either would growing alone, therefore leading to better plantings.” 2) Sweetgrass is in the Poaceae (grass family); native to the lower 48 states, also called vanilla grass; 12-20 inches tall, with small seedheads bearing broad, bronze-colored spikelets. The grass spreads by creeping rhizomes which send up few to several leafy shoots. This is a perennial which does best and “thrives where it is used and disappears elsewhere.” 3) For the indigenous people, sweetgrass is called “Hair of the Mother Earth” and is one of the four sacred herbs including sage, cedar and tobacco. It was the very first to grow on the earth. “When we braid sweetgrass, we are braiding the hair of Mother Earth, showing her our loving attention, our care for her beauty and well-being, in gratitude for all she has given us.”
Master Gardener Happenings...
Gardening for Specialist Bees and Other Pollinators
Nora Hiland and Terri Litchfield presented a program on June 18 to an audience at Stratford Ecological Center as part of a day of activities in anticipation of National Pollinator Week, June 20-26. They were asked to focus on gardening for specialist bees with content suitable for a range of gardeners, from beginner to experienced.
Specialist bees, most of which are native bees and don’t include honeybees which are a non-native species, usually rely on one or two plant genera when collecting pollen for provisioning their nests. If these plants aren’t in the landscape, these specialist bees will not find a home there. Gardening for specialist bees helps bring diversity to the landscape and provides resources needed to sustain populations of these native bees.
The presentation included examples of fifteen native plants upon which certain species of native bees are dependent. Spring-, summer-, and fall-blooming plants were included to demonstrate that different bee species require these pollen resources at different times through the gardening season.
Want to learn more? The basis for the presentation was the Guide to Ohio Specialist Bees. This resource page was provided to participants as well.
Master Gardener Plant Swap
Could we have gotten a more beautiful May evening to mingle, talk shop and swap out unloved plants for plants that we hope to love? Our annual (we hope!) Master Gardener Plant Swap was blessed with sunny skies and warm breezes. Cars lined up in the Stratford parking lot with trunks popped open overflowing with plants of all stripes. Shasta daisies, hosta, canna and iris tubers, a plethora of native plants and even an arborvitae or two – it was a treasure hunt for plant lovers, and it was free!
A HUGE thank you to Nikki Sparks and Jan Irwin for planning such a wonderful evening for us all. Even those who didn’t take home any new treasures got to enjoy the simple pleasure of being together, reconnecting and making new gardening friends.
Guided Wildflower Walk at Gallant Woods Park
Sunday, May 1st was a beautiful day for a guided Wild Flower Walk through Gallant Woods Park with Master Gardeners Susan DeVol and Charlotte Niceswanger.
Introductions were exchanged at the Acorn Loop Pavilion. Armed with our cell phones and prepared to scan the QR codes on the Wildflower Signs, we set off on the Acorn Trail. There were a few surprises along the way. The group identified an emerald ash borer who traveled along the path with us, discovered a few morel mushrooms and learned about 10 different wildflowers including wild violets, phlox and May apples.
What should have been one loop on the Acorn Trail turned in to two loops because our group was so engaged that we lost track of where we were!
We were so fortunate to meet a Girl Scout Troop leader and her daughter who shared with us their plans to build a pollinator garden this summer on a plot of land approved by their neighborhood association in Lewis Center. Needless to say we had an attentive audience grateful to learn about all of the resources available through the Delaware County Master Gardener Association. We parted ways excited and encouraged by everyone’s interest and with a few more steps than originally planned.