September the Long Goodbye

A prairie of Tall Bluestem Native Grass

A prairie of Tall Bluestem Native Grass.

Sunday, September 26, I stopped at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat to pick tall bluestem seed for a seed saving project. We want to offer online prairie friends the opportunity to buy a little of our native grass seed. We don’t sell seed by the pound or even by the ounce for that matter. When we ship common milkweed seed, the package contains 20-30 seeds. Tomorrow I will mail milkweed seed to Florida and Virginia. People are not greedy. They just want to help the butterfly by planting the host plant for the monarch.

As I strolled leisurely through the habitat, I saw at least a dozen yellow sulphur butterflies flitting about gathering nectar from periwinkle showy asters and yellow blooming birds foot trefoil. Among the stiff and showy goldenrod, I saw many species of native bees sipping nectar.

Summer may be over but the habitat is still alive with the activity of smaller species such as the insects which I saw in the warm sun enjoying the last days of blooming wildflowers. Soon a colder freeze will come and all life will go dormant to wait out the long cold winter.

Native bumblebees

Native bumblebees

I am enjoying these last few days of documenting and photographing the littlest of species that make our natural world complete.

Advertisements

Response to Letter to the Editor – Happy Tonics Board and Officers

The Editorial article by Lauralei Anderson in the paper September 8, 2010 was submitted to Happy Tonics, Inc. officers and board in OH, MA, VA and WI. We agreed to the following response to Lauralei Anderson’s Editorial.

Letter to the editor, Washburn County Register

In regards to the letter sent by Lauralei Anderson from Cumberland, we at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat would like to respond to her criticism calling the habitat “an overgrown railroad bed.”

A native habitat is completely different from a typical garden, park or planting. There are no tulips and marigolds in nice neat rows because all the plants in the habitat are native to Wisconsin. This is a prime example of a restored tall grass prairie whose plants are the same ones that covered Wisconsin when the Conestoga wagons passed through carrying the pioneers west.

It was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that not only helped pick out the native seeds, but donated over $500 worth of seeds to the habitat and the Land and Water Conservation Department had a huge hand in the project also.

Native plantings always start out with common plants like the little and big blue stems which you call weeds. If the garden is healthy, the first native flowers begin to appear the third year. You mentioned in your letter that you saw some ‘scant black-eyed Susan’s, they are right on time. Within the next 5 years, more native flower species, the seeds of which were planted by professionals, will appear. Some native plants take years for their seeds to germinate and grow into plants.

Even though the habitat idea is new to many here in Shell Lake and the surrounding residents, it’s familiar to those who are familiar with Saulk County’s favorite son, Also Leopold and sites like Brighter Planet. The habitat has received grants from both organizations as well as numerous others that believe that if we don’t save the native plants for the two most important pollinators, the bees and butterflies, commercial crops and public and personal gardens will fail due to a lack of pollination. We will be starting to be official Wisconsin native seed savers this year, sending them throughout the United States.

Shell Lake is also on the direct floral corroder that runs from Canada to Mexico that offers food and rest to the millions of butterflies heading to their winter home in Mexico and yes, the butterflies often follow the highways, another reason for this perfect habitat site.

It’s often easy to criticize what we don’t understand, and this habitat was never meant to look like a ‘cute little garden,’ it’s a teaching tool that has already tied into Eco Tourism and we have given many tours this summer to a local audience as well as visitors from across our nation. The Monarch Habitat also sponsors Earth Day activities each year which encourage locals to buy locally.

Articles about the habitat have not only been published nationally, the habitat is also part of the international world with blog responders from 72 different countries who understand why it exists.

If you watch television, you will see the habitat featured on Discover Wisconsin three times during the next two years, starting March 2011. The habitat is all over their website and print material and calendars as well as the official Wisconsin Tourism Site.

All the beautiful little gardens you mentioned in your letter require constant up-keep from weeding to watering to fertilizing, to the applying of pesticides and for some, mowing.

The habitat is ‘green’ in more ways than one because native plants live with or without our help. The habitat leaves absolutely no carbon footprint.

We would encourage you to take a tour of this amazing place; to step back in history for a bit and enjoy the many kinds of butterflies that already visit the habitat daily.

Mary Ellen Ryall, Executive Director

EPA Position on Native Habitat

The Native Restored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, received some bad press in the newspaper this week re: Washburn County Register.  The article was in the Editor’s Column. One of our board members did some research and found an informative position paper. We are noting the Weed Law vs. Native habitat as follows.

V.  SOME VILLAGES STILL DON’T GET IT – WHAT TO DO IF YOUR VILLAGE IS ENFORCING ITS WEED LAW AGAINST YOUR NATURAL LANDSCAPE

The types of old weed laws used by municipalities to prosecute natural landscapers generally suffer from a variety of legal flaws. These flaws can be exploited by natural landscapers who are targeted for prosecution in order to win his or her case, or hopefully, convince his or her village that the weed law should not be applied to natural landscapes. The flaws are constitutional, practical and evidentiary.

A.  Natural Gardening as a Fundamental Right.

1.  Landscaping as Speech and Art

Natural gardening can be constitutionally protected speech and, therefore, any weed law must be closely related to a compelling state interest. While not all natural landscapes are obvious to even a casual viewer, many are. Indeed, this is often the real “problem.” Symbolic speech is as protected as oral speech. One of the best ways a person can announce his or her concern for what humankind has done, and is doing, to the environment is to restore a portion of the environment to its natural state. Restoring natural vegetation can, therefore, be a form of speech and, as such, is entitled to the same protection that speech receives under the First Amendment.129

The attempt made by natural landscapers to politically express themselves through the cultivation of wild plants is one that parallels historical and traditional precedents.130 The political use of flowers as symbols is as important today as it has been in the past. The red rose is the symbol of the Socialist Party in France and the British Arbor Party. In the War of the Roses, opposing sides took roses of different colors as their symbols.131

Natural landscaping can also be artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.132 State law recognizes the beauty, artistic expression and virtue of landscape gardening.133 Landscape architecture is defined as “the art and science of arranging land together with the spaces and objects upon it, for the purpose of creating a safe, efficient, healthful, and aesthetically pleasing physical environment for human use and enjoyment.”134 A weed law, as applied to natural landscapers, denies the landscapers’ ability to express themselves, through an activity statutorily recognized as art.

Neighbors and government officials need not concur that the natural landscape is “art” before First Amendment protection attaches. In interpreting art as speech protected by the First Amendment, the court in Piarowski V. Illinois Community College 135 stated, “[t]he freedom of speech and of the press protected by the First Amendment has been interpreted to embrace purely artistic as well as political expression (and entertainment that falls short of anyone’s idea or art…)…”136

One of the most spectacular examples of natural landscaping as art lies in the heart of Chicago’s Grant Park. The Wild Flower Works II is the creation of Chicago artist Chapman Kelly.137 Kelly sees his garden of wildflowers, legumes and other native plants not merely as dirt and flowers, but rather a giant canvas on which he does his “most spectacular work.”138 The ecological painting is a socio-political work that symbolizes the proper role of humankind within Nature.

In 1988, when the Park District sought to have the Wild Flower Works plowed under, Kelly went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order arguing his First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was later settled by allowing the Wild Flower Works to remain in Grant Park and the Park District to receive regular reports on its maintenance.

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint and the soil and air as the canvas – working with nature provides the technique.”139 More remarkable examples of gardening as art are the efforts of the French Impressionist, Claude Monet. Following the death of his wife, Monet moved to Giverny, France in 1883. There he planted the gardens that were the subject of his most famous paintings. Focusing on color relationships and the effects of light, Monet carefully arranged pure colors in the abstract form of flowering plants to “create richly patterned textures and mood by contrasting or homonizing color relationships.”140 In the later, and most productive part of his career, Monet used his flower and water gardens at Giverny as a living studio. “With the living, growing and changing plants, always subject to light and weather, Monet created an organized concentrated color environment where he could live, breathe, observe and walk, forever having his painter’s eye challenged by the effects of light.”141 Many of the plants Monet employed, and much of the layout of the gardens, are the same or similar to many of today’s natural landscapes.

Enforcement of a weed law denies the artist the tools of her art, Nature. A city’s weed law enforcement is as devastating to a natural landscaper as declaring music a nuisance would be to a musician. Absent a showing of some compelling municipal interest, a city does not have the power to restrain a natural landscaper’s freedom of expression. The unjustified restraint of freedom of expression consitutes a violation of the First Amendment.

Sources: EPA, Landscaping with Native Plants; Green Landscaping Green Acres,  The John Marshall Law Review
Volume 26, Summer 1993, Number 4. You can view the whole document at http://www.epa.gov/greenacres/weedlaws/JMLR.html 

 

%d bloggers like this: