Spring 2020 VOL. 68 No. 1
Above: Early Spring Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale). Friends photo
While it is sometimes hard to know what to do in the face of a global issue, there are meaningful actions one person can take regarding climate change. Two main ways to address climate change are: 1) prevention by reducing greenhouse gases that are currently in or will be added to the atmosphere, and 2) preparation for changes that are anticipated or already under way by creating a robust climate-resilient ecosystem. Taken together, prevention and preparation can be thought of as sustainability.
Aside from raising your own food and composting organic waste, gardening activities that can prevent climate change include:
Enhancing soil health:
Several studies estimate that soil could sequester, i.e. take up and store, as much as 10% of current carbon emissions. The practice of building soil carbon is a major focus of regenerative agriculture, which is among sustainability strategies used by major food companies such as General Mills and Cargill. Gardeners can use regenerative agriculture techniques such as incorporating compost into the top layers of soils, using mulch, and planting cover crops to prevent erosion and to provide habitat for beneficial insects.
Using less artificial nitrogen fertilizer:
Most of us are aware that over-fertilization and run-off can negatively impact water quality, causing algal blooms that result in ‘dead zones’. Not many people also know that nitrogen fertilizer is created using a very energy-intensive process, the Haber-Bosch process. One study estimates that the use of artificial nitrogen fertilizer accounts for about 50% of the energy used in commercial agriculture. Under certain field conditions nitrogen fertilizer can also transform to nitrous oxide gas, which is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Instead of artificial nitrogen fertilizer, use composted manure to provide necessary nutrients as well as organic carbon.
Planting trees and native grasses.
In addition to providing shade and local cooling, trees sequester a large amount of carbon in their trunk and canopy. A recent study that generated a lot of excitement suggested that planting half a trillion trees could reduce atmospheric carbon by about 25%. Forest ecologists like to point out that ‘trees can’t walk’ to more favorable conditions so ensure that tree species you plant now are adapted to future conditions. Many native grasses have extensive root systems that also sequester significant amounts of carbon. Integrate native grasses into your garden now to help ensure the continuity of vegetative cover as the climate shifts to one more favorable for grasses.
This leads into the idea of preparing for future climate conditions. Actions you can take include:
Planting species that are adapted to warmer conditions, increasing diversity in plantings, and removing invasive species creates a resilient plant population. Although future conditions might not be favorable for our current native species, some ‘can walk’ and their range can shift. Providing habitat so that desirable plants, insects, and animals can build healthy populations now will increase the likelihood that they can establish and thrive in future suitable ranges.
Supporting the Garden and similar spaces:
Minnesota is comprised of mostly fragmented landscape, with widely dispersed pockets of relatively undisturbed land. In such a landscape, gardens, parks, and natural reserves serve as regional ‘nodes’ of ecosystem diversity. Creating physical or operational connections between nodes will build an interconnected web that results in a more resilient landscape overall. Understanding how our gardens and the Garden fit within a larger context is a key first step; doing and supporting activities that create a sustainable regional ecosystem can have a meaningful and lasting impact in our response to the threat of climate change. We can make a difference.
Carolyn holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Minnesota and has served on several public boards and committees concerning sustainability and environmental protection. She is a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, one of over 20,000 leaders in over 150 countries.
Kathy Connelly writes about our stewardship of the environment and Monarchs.
Susan Wilkins covers the early Spring events in the Garden this year.
Under your feet a silent fight is going on. A foreign invader is taking over, becoming the most common animal in most areas of Minnesota forests including Wirth Park. The effects of this invasion have serious consequences for soil health and structure, yet few are aware of this fight. The invader is the familiar earthworm and it damages our forests by destroying the layer of leaf litter that covers the forest floor.
Most people believe that earthworms have always been in Minnesota, but this is not the case. During the last ice age 10,000 years ago any earthworms in Canada and the glaciated area of northern states were wiped out. Plants and soils imported from Europe probably first introduced earthworm species to North America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. From their original placement, earthworms expanded their territory at a rate of about 30 feet per year. Fishermen taking earthworms with them to new ponds, and displacement of soil during construction projects have helped accelerate this expansion.
Our forest ecosystems evolved in a unique, glaciated setting with a deep layer of leaf litter. This layer of “duff” is habitat for native insects and animals. By mixing the soil in damaging ways, necessary conditions for growth and germination of plants are destroyed by earthworms. With earthworms eating the leaf litter, young plants lack the nitrogen and other nutrients that they need to grow. It is now known that minute fungal connections in soil enable the exchange of minerals from soil to plant roots. Absence of the duff layer decreases these mycorrhizal associations, making it more difficult for herbaceous and woody plants alike to absorb necessary nutrients from the soil. As a result, there is decreased understory and canopy vegetation, reducing available food for all forms of wildlife, leading to reduced insect and small mammal populations and decreased biodiversity.
Forest plants and soils have long been sinks for atmospheric carbon. By consuming leaf litter in forested areas, earthworms impair the ability of forests to absorb carbon because the forests become less productive.
Invasive earthworms are a root cause contributor to conditions that worsen climate change.
Earthworms are persistent in soils; there is not yet a method for eliminating them that would not also be damaging to the creatures and plants that are desirable. The only response possible at this point is to stop spreading them. There are some options to help. The Minnesota DNR has started education programs in bait shops about the risks of earthworm release. It is illegal to dump your unused fishing bait anywhere other than in the trash where it cannot escape into the environment. Spreading the words about the harmful effects of earthworms and debunking the myth that earthworms improve soil can also help.
By following these steps you can make your area more beautiful and make the world a better place. Navigate to the Great Lake Worm Watch for more information: http://greatlakeswormwatch.org
Colin Bartol is editor of this newsletter.
A hope was again expressed that a more adequate building could be obtained for this lovely setting…we need places to teach the love of Nature.
With those words in the Summer 1968 issue of this newsletter former Garden Curator Martha Crone let out the news that something might be afoot to replace the old Garden office of 1915 that had served Eloise Butler, herself, and currently Ken Avery, who referred to the building as “Miss Butler’s humble little office,” flanked by “little half-tumbled-down shacks that were used for tool buildings.” Indeed, something was about to happen.
A project committee of The Friends was formed that Fall to develop plan ideas for a new shelter. Those ideas were presented to Park Superintendent Robert Ruhe and his staff, the idea being that the Board of Park Commissioners (BPC) would provide for the funding and construction of the Shelter. (In 1970 the BPC was renamed to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board - MPRB) But the BPC lacked funds to allocate, at least until 1976, so Mr. Ruhe and staff suggested that The Friends produce a design of their own, submit it for approval and raise the money.
Which was done!
Friends’ president Catherine (Cay) Faragher took charge of the process, with board member Alvin Witt in charge of the building fund, board member Wilber Tusler in charge of building. Tusler, a retired principal of the architectural firm Magney & Tusler, brought in Hiram Livingston to design a rustic shelter. The BPC agreed to do the excavation and run in the wiring and water - the Friends were responsible for everything else, from the footings on up. The final design was approved by Mr. Ruhe on March 25, 1969 and construction could begin in the Fall – IF the Friends had the funds.
Cay Faragher wrote to the membership in April 1969: “We can do this, do it right now and do it the way we want to, if we all get in there and pitch. There are only 200 of us; some will be unable to contribute, but those of you who can will be richly rewarded with the knowledge that you have helped to safe-guard and keep for future generations the Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary.”
Continued below the photo.
The Martha E. Crone Shelter. Photo Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.
Mr. Tusler hired Joe Peterson Construction of South Minneapolis to do the build but they could not begin until after the Garden closed. On October 23, Martha Crone was present at the building site with her great-grandson, Alan Wander, age 3, to hammer in a “golden nail” but it was not until October 27 that enough funds were available to actually finish the project over the Winter - the final cost being $25,168.92.
Cay Faragher wrote again to the membership in April 1970: “We have accomplished what seemed impossible. Your Directors hope that you will will be as pleased as we are with the "Shelter" as you are the ones who have done this through your enthusiastic contributions. We are leaving a few of the exciting finish up "frostings on the cake" until the bills are all in and paid.”
On May 13 1970, Friends, BPC officials and the interested public gathered for the dedication. The dedication plaque mounted on the front pillar reads “The Martha E. Crone Shelter was planned, financed and erected by The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc and it was given to the City of Minneapolis through the Board of Park Commissioners and dedicated May 13, 1970 at 4:30 PM.”
Martha Crone wrote a thank you to the Friends in July 1970: "I take this opportunity to express my appreciation and extend my heartfelt gratitude to all members and friends who made possible the beautiful shelter building in the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden and Bird Sanctuary and dedicated it to me. I am most grateful to those who have given of their time and effort to make it such a success. This is really the culmination of many years of my life devoted to the Garden.”
In 1971, after 53 years of service, Martha Crone ended her work with The Friends and the Wildflower Garden.
Since 1970 the building has stood the test of time. Now, with the addition that the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board has proposed, we look forward to the first major change to the building in 50 years. May it last another 50!
For an expanded version of this history with more photos use this link.
For a history of Martha Crone's relation to the Garden and to the Friends use this link.
Photo of Martha Crone from the Martha Crone Collection, Minnesota Historical Society.
Gary Bebeau is a member of the Friends
On October 2, 2019, the Golden Valley City Council approved a “Pollinator Protection and Promoting Habitat” resolution with the support of the Golden Valley Garden Club. Included in the resolution were creation of a pollinator garden near City Hall, creating new pollinator habit through construction of public and private work, planting more milkweed, and controlling buckthorn and non-native plants within nature areas. The resolution acknowledges the need for use of chemical controls, while establishing the goal of minimizing their use. Helping support pollinators in these ways also addresses climate change by promoting the health, diversity and resilience of plant communities that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
People for Pollinators Golden Valley is hosting a free family-friendly “Pollinator Party” on June 23rd, 2020 at the Golden Valley Library, 830 Winnetka Avenue North. Adults and children will have an opportunity to meet a beekeeper and learn how bees make honey. Activities range from face painting, wearing a beekeeper’s suit, trying on butterfly wings, crafting, and more. Information will be available on steps to take to help pollinators and the environment. Check the Hennepin County Library website for schedule updates.
The Golden Valley Garden Club promotes native and pollinator-friendly practices in Golden Valley, and offers speakers on a variety of topics at their regularly scheduled public meetings, an annual May plant sale, (canceled for 2020) and garden tours in and around Golden Valley.
Information will be available to help attendees take steps on their own to help pollinators and the environment.
People for Pollinators Golden Valley is a citizen-led group advocating for pollinator-friendly practices in Golden Valley since 2017 with the goal of increasing healthy pollinator habitats and raising awareness about ways to protect pollinators. Pollinator-friendly practices can help insects such as the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, an endangered species which was named Minnesota’s state bee in 2019.
Below: Parade for Pollinators. Photo by Jeannie Schwartz
Membership changes since the last newsletter
A listing of donors and memorials received between November 2019 and March 2020.
NOW AVAILABLE: The third edition of the Friends’ Garden Plant Photo Identification Book is now available. Enlarged from the previous edition, it retains its 8-1/2 x 5-1/2” size with a spiral binding. With 264 pages, it contains 1,949 thumbnail photo of 678 species of wildflowers and small shrubs, 35 species of ferns and 74 species of trees of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary - plants contemporary and historical to the Garden. All plants are native or introduced to Minnesota and most can be found outside the Garden in Minnesota and in the northern states in the eastern half of the U.S. Additional images of many plants are provided with notes to aid in identification, along with a comprehensive index. New to this edition is the arrangement of photos by flower style within a particular color, the year of introduction to the Garden and photos for tree identification. The price is $26.95 which includes tax and shipping. More details here.
Make a no-cost gift to the Garden by checking off the email option for the newsletter on your next membership renewal. Email subscribers to The Fringed Gentian™ help us decrease our printing and mailing costs, reduce our use of valuable environmental resources, and allow us to direct more of your support to the Garden. If you would like to switch to an emailed newsletter prior to receiving your renewal notice, or if you have questions about making this change, please contact Membership Coordinator Christi Bystedt by email. Members who already receive the Gentian by email have been very satisfied – photos are vivid, type size is easily enlarged, and there is no paper to recycle. We hope you will consider making this choice. Thank you!
Bee pollinating on Coneflower. Photo by Bob Ambler.
©2020 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.