Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A monarch butterfly on New England aster. (Photo: Amy Meltzer)

The Cambridge Plant & Garden Club is organizing events over the next months to bring attention to the critical role native plants play in supporting a healthy environment and thriving wildlife and pollinator populations.

This focus is inspired by the Garden Club of America’s Native Plant Initiative. Congress has proclaimed April “Native Plant Month” nationally, and Gov. Maura Healey has proclaimed it so in Massachusetts. To read the proclamation and learn more, visit gcamerica.org.

Insect and bird populations are falling in the United States due mostly to pesticides, development and a lack of native plants. Birds and insects play a critical role in maintaining a stable ecosystem: They provide food to other species and pollinate our crops. These living species require native plants to survive. Ornamental flowers are beautiful, but most don’t support the life cycle of our native bees and butterflies.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Cambridge now plant mostly native plants. The Cambridge Plant & Garden Club is also planting a mostly native garden at the Hooper Lee Nichols house, the home of History Cambridge, in May. It’s the future.

Here are the first programs featured:

Saturday: Club members and Jean Devine of Biodiversity Builders will give away packets of native wildflower seeds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the City’s Compost Giveaway. The free native wildflower seeds include those for purple-headed Helenium, wild bergamot and smooth blue aster. The event is at the Cambridge Main Library, 449 Broadway, Mid-Cambridge, rain or shine.

May 13: Club members, in collaboration with students in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School’s Sustainability Club, will distribute more than 2,000 pre-purchased native 1-year-old plants. These include four species for the sun – Brown-eyed Susan, Rose milkweed, Threadleaf coreopsis and Wild bergamot or Bee balm – along with four for shady areas: Christmas fern, downy skullcap, white wood aster and zigzag goldenrod.

The CP&GC has been working with Mystic Charles Pollinator Pathway Group, and other groups and gardeners that promote native plants, to continue offering events where gardeners can learn more about natives. Information is here.