Plant Talk 9 Botany In a Day Online Class Plants that Support Biodiversity

Picture of Bee on a Bluebonnet in Texas


Plant Talk 9

September 3, 2011

Hello plant enthusiasts! Well, somehow another three weeks has flown by! My bibliography software, Zotero, has been driving me crazy with this class and has caused hours of data entry on citations alone! Finally back up and running….

Recent Events

            Two weeks ago i attended a wedding out in Hot Springs. The ceremony was held at Mill Ridge on the Appalachian Trail. Mill Ridge is a place that i inescapably associate with Frank Cook. So this location had a really interesting overlap of sentiment for me. As part of the service, pre-party and reception i helped a good friend make the flower arrangements. Some selections included Globe Amaranth (Gompherena sp.), Zinnia (Zinnia spp.), Statice (Limonium sp.) Honesty (Lunaria sp.) and Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp.). The first four are everlastings that keep their shape and aesthetic for years. i made a little bouquet of the reception flowers for the couple to keep an remember their special day by. Instead of flower children they had kids hand out locally harvested Tomatoes, Blueberries. i decided to add in some of the exotic invasive Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) that grow prolifically on site both as a educational talking point and to give the ceremony “a sense of place”.

i had the good fortune during the same weekend as the wedding to join in on a class with mushroom master Ken Crouse. The class was held at Sunnybank Inn which is run by a local legend named Elmer Hall. Frank Cook used to co-teach this class before his passing. Frank also frequented Elmer’s for many years operating in various capacities. Therefore, it felt fitting to drop in with the class on Friday August 19th, which was the two year anniversary of Frank’s passing. We opened up a bottle of mead brewed by Turtle from ingredients picked by participants in Frank’s first memorial two years ago. i rejoined the class on Sunday for their last walk. Unfortunately, it was really dry and we saw few mushrooms. Cinnabar Chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) was probably the highlight for me. Despite the dryness, the class found and Ken was able to identify over 50 species over the course of the weekend. i talked with the class a bit about Sochane (Rudbeckia laciniata) and its importance to the Cherokee as a cooked green. Several folks also went for a nice dip in the river.

 I was honored and thankful to teach for Juliet’s Blankespoor’s class at their annual Sam’s Knob field trip on the parkway . We practiced the sometimes intensely hard work of keying out plants using the local guide to trees and shrubs as well as the Flora of the Carolinas (Radford, Ahles, & Bell, 1968; Swanson, 1994). Some interesting plants of note included Withe-rod (Viburnum cassinoides), Pepper Bush (Clethra acuminata), Fire Cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica), American Rowan (Sorbus americana), Currants (Ribes rotundifolia).

Last Sunday i was excited to teach another Forage and Feast class at Warren Wilson. Over 20 people joined in including the new garden manager Patrick and his wife Susan who is an acupuncturist. The menu is below

Frittata with Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) and Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) and Warren Wilson Garlic. The eggs came from Warren Wilson, alumni Hickory Gap Farm and a friend of the college known as “the egg lady” Point being that all food has a backstory and not all eggs are created equal…

Salad with one students cucumbers and tomatoes and Wood Sorrel (Oxalis sp.), Violets (Viola sp.) and Cherry Tomatoes from Juliet’s

Yogurt Fennel Dressing and Tamari Tahini Miso dressing with Shisho (Perilla frutescens).

Hummus with Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) greens

An Oat Crumble with Blueberries, Apples, Pears and Autumn olives (Elaeagnus umbellata)

Another fruit snack included the native Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) and non-native Asian Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

We also had herbal tea made with various members of the Mint family, Spicebush

            (Lindera benzoin) stems and Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) berries.

i give thanks for the many chances i have had this year, to teach, guide and make the foraging way clear….

Plants that Support Biodiversity

This particular class is focused on biodiversity. Much information for this class comes from my graduate research like some of the other classes this year. For that reason some ideas are more germane to Appalachia than other areas. However, much is applicable to anywhere in the U.S.A. and the temperate world in general for that matter. Biodiversity is a concern across the globe. Many studies have led to a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges with maintaining biodiversity and the significant role diverse ecosystems play (Bailey, 1995; Groombridge, 1992; Groombridge & Jenkins, 2002; Ricketts et al., 1999). Clearly from such studies Appalachia is an area of international significance in regards to biodiversity. Studies local to the area also support such a claim (Boone & Aplet, 1994; Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Cooperative & USDA, 1996).


Two types of agrobiodiversity are considered here. The first type concerns the number of species that are used in an agricultural system. The second type involves the number of varieties of any given species that are grown. In order to promote either type of agrobiodiversity, grower/consumer education and awareness is essential for acceptance and success. Communication of a means for tantalizing preparation is just as importance as knowledge of cultivation.

The number of crops employed by people in the developed world is in sore need of augmentation. Industrialization has provided the means to use a small number of crops to provide a staggering array of different food forms, textures and tastes. However, this dependence on just a few crops has also led to many side effects common to non-diverse dietary systems such as tremendous pest pressure, prominence of food allergies and nutrient deficient diets.

True diet diversity will allow for the growth of many different crops that may naturally confuse pests, make more efficient use of fertility and allow for less dependence on chemicals through harvesting weeds rather than poisoning them. A rich palette of tastes and textures may be accessed by using a wide range of ingredients. Such options can only be approximated by the artificial chemicals and extrusionary techniques of modern conventional industrial agriculture. The tragedy of such an agriculture system has been exposed by a number of authors (Kimbrell, 2002; Schlosser, 2002). Conversely authors have also written of many systems that embrace a diverse way of plant cultivation (Abelman, 2005; Mollison, 1997; Shapiro & Harrisson, 2000).

Many crops that were treasured as far back as Roman and Greek times have fallen into ignominy in the last century or two. Some examples of favorite old time vegetables ripe for a comeback include Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus henricus), Rocket (Eruca sativa), Scorzonera (Scozonera hispanica) Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius.), Skirret (Sium sisarum) and Sea Kale (Crambe maritima) (Halpin, 1978). 

Wild edible plants have already been covered in depth in an earlier class this year. Nonetheless, a few crops bear mentioning as very choice wild edibles that frequently occur in disturbed nutrient rich garden soils by their own volition. These crops include Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album), Pigweeds (Amaranthus spp.), Quickweed (Galinsoga ciliata), Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), Cresses (Barbarea spp., Cardamine spp. Lepidium spp.), Burdock (Arctium spp.), Chickweed (Stellaria media) and Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). So if you’re going to weed them eat them! However, Make sure to know the time of year to harvest, the part/s used and preparation method.

Juliet Blankespoor has tried out growing several novel new crops for the local nursery market outside Asheville, NC. These include Toona (Toona sinensis), Rampion (Campanula rapunculoides) Tree Mallow (Malva sylvestris), Musk Mallow (Malva mochata) and Bloody Dock (Rumex sanguinensis). Other novel crops that have been suggested for re-emergence include Celtuce (Lactuca sativa var asparagina), Ram’s Horn (Proboscidea louisianica), Chayote (Sechium edule), Shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium) and New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa) (Halpin, 1978).  This same source also recommends Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) as a green. However, this traditional practice is often no longer recommended due to the presence of liver toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Agrobiodiversity through Heirloom Breeding

The other type of agrobiodiversity rests upon millennia of historical breeding by untold amounts of people in almost every farming region of the world. For any given major crop hundreds if not thousands of varieties have been developed to suit local growing conditions and consumer tastes. These varieties are often called heirlooms because they have been handed down from generation to generation just like jewelry or other treasured family possessions. Jim Veteto has catalogued the prevalence of the heirloom vegetable tradition in western North Carolina (J. R. Veteto, 2005).  His findings showed that the vast majority of heirloom vegetable varieties still being saved were of beans. Beans were followed by tomatoes and then to a minor degree potatoes, corn and other crops. All of these vegetables of course represent Native American crops. The Potatoes also represent a secondary connection to the Scots Irish heritage of many Appalachian settlers. Jim has recently helped edit a volume further detailing Appalachian crop diversity and concludes that Appalachia is possibly the center for such diversity in the whole country (J. Veteto, Nabhan, Fitzsimons, Routson, & D. Walker, 2011).

One of the main places for maintaining agrobiodiversity in the United States is the Seeds Saver’s Exchange in Decorah Iowa. Here over 10,000 varieties of crops are preserved and grown on a rotational basis. This organization also publishes numerous resources cataloguing agrobiodiversity (Whealy & Adelmann, 1986). Many other publications list varieties of heirloom seeds that have been grown over time (Fabricant, 2000; Male, 1999; Watson, 1996; Weaver, 1997). Others have also woven the story of  agrobiodiversity importance along with the listing of varieties (Ausubel, 1994; Fowler & Mooney, 1990; Nabhan, 1989; Rood, 2008).

In just the last century much valuable labor has been lost to the conglomeration of plant growing interests and loss of seed saving ability on the local level. Several resources exist that may aid in the promulgation of seeds saving knowledge (Ashworth & Whealy, 2002; Bubel, 1988; Rogers, 1990). Carolina Farm Stewardship Association sponsors a seed saving program too. Some seed companies that supply heirloom vegetables from the Appalachian/Southeast region follow below.

 Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Appalachian Seeds  

Sow True Seed  


A vibrant network of seed exchanges also occurs in western North Carolina at the annual Organic Grower’s School, Permaculture Gathering and various events located in Watauga and Ashe counties. Rob Danford and Marilyn Derr in Watauga county NC have a stockpile of gallons of seeds that represent a full spectrum of crops and many different varieties as an example of individual initiatives.

Vegetable crops are not the only cultivated plants with a history of thousands of varieties. Big Horse Creek Farm and Moretz Orchards in western North Carolina represent good repositories of apple diversity. Big Horse Creek has hundreds of apple tree varieties, many that are for sale (R. Joyner & S. Joyner, 2009). Bill Moretz offers the fruit of over 100 varieties. Several books also catalogue the fascinating array of apple varieties and their many applications (Crawford & Agroforestry Research Trust, 1994; Hanson, 2005; Morgan & Richards, 2002; Phillips, 1998; R. Yepsen, 1994). Lee Calhoun (1995) has written a book specifically about southern apples. Thomas Burford (1998) is an heirloom apple authority in the Charlottesville, VA area who has also written a book about apple varieties. According to the 2007 Agriculture Census apples are the most prolific fruit crop grown in the Appalachian region. Centers of production include Henderson County, NC Western MD and PA and the area of New York that is close to Lake Erie. Orchards continue to be pushed up in Henderson county due to development pressure. The celebration and appreciation of unique apple varieties may serve to stimulate the protection of valuable farmland. Consumer awareness of the diversity available might at the very least lead to planting more apples that are tailored to suit the homes of individuals within the Appalachian region or abroad.

Biodiversity in the Garden World of Insects

            Most vegetable and flower gardens are designed to provide food and/or aesthetic beauty. A well designed garden can provide both. A few gardeners think to provide for insects such as butterflies/moths and bees. Fewer gardeners still probably think to plant for the vast array of beneficial insects that may deter and/or control the pests of their crops. Such a planting scheme goes by the name of Farmscaping (Dufour, 2000).

            Butterflies and Moths

            Butterflies are desired by some and despised by others. How many people make the connection that beautiful butterflies come from caterpillars that are sometimes pests of crops? Butterflies don’t often cause much damage, as pests go, and have never been one of my top concerns. Butterfly caterpillars and butterfly adults often use different plants for support (Cranshaw, 2004). The Sunflower (Asteraceae) family is by far the most diverse host for adults. Caterpillars use a wide diversity of plants as hosts including a large number of trees. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and other species of this genus are aptly named and very popular with butterfly adults and some caterpillars.

Moths affect a number of field crops and trees and can even eat through linens and grains in the household. However, a relatively few moth species are pests (Marinelli, 2008). The biggest moth pests of crops affect members of the Brassicaceae and Rosaceae families. European and Asian Gypsy moths are currently decimating oak trees in the northeast and quickly moving south (USDA, 1996). However, some moths also are known for their exceeding beauty. Adult moths typically are night feeders that are drawn to fragrant white colored flowers. Moth caterpillars are specialized feeders that depend on a host of trees and other plants like butterflies,  (Marinelli, 2008). A detailed account of the role moths and butterflies play in the environment has been recently published (Tallamy, 2009).


The European Honey Bee (Apis melifera) is attracted to a wide variety of plants. This non-native insect is very challenged currently due to a number of insect pests and diseases. They and other pollinators are in dire need of our support! In western North Carolina there are four main periods when cohorts of plants are blooming and support honey production. The first period includes Willows (Salix spp.) and Maples (Acer spp.). The second period includes Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and various members of the Rose family (Rosaceae). The third flow makes for a special cherished honey from the Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboretum). The last flow is from various members of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae). Typically the first and last flows are left for the bees while beekeepers remove the “extra” honey from the second and third flows. Members of the Mint family when planted or naturally occurring are also favorites of bees. Field crops including Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and Clover (Trifolium spp.) tend to be popular as well. Basswood (Tilia spp.) may provide another source of specialized honey when abundant and is popular in Europe well. i was fortunate enough to teach a mead class using Basswood honey from the hives of Spring House farm and Amy Fiedler near Boone this summer. Definitive texts may be consulted for more in depth understanding of the variety of plants used by bees around the country (H. B. Lovell, 1977; J. H. Lovell, 1999; Pellett, 1977).

Beneficial Insects

A definite pattern may be observed in plants families that are considered good for beneficial insects. These families include various members of the Sunflower (Asteraceae), Mustard (Brassicaceae), Mint (Lamiaceae), Buckwheat (Polygonaceae) and Bean (Fabaceae). Some outlier plants include Autumn Joy (Crassula sp.) Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Borage (Borago officianalis) (Ellis & Bradley, 1996; McDonald, n.d.).  Many plants in these families have small flowers that are easy for beneficial insects to access. The presence of extra floral nectaries also aids in use by beneficial insects. However, research done in the Piedmont of North Carolina through NC State showed that the attraction and employment of beneficial insects may be complex, hard to characterize, and analyze (Forehand, 2004).

Trap cropping is another technique sometimes used by growers to fend off pests. This concept has to do with using a plant that pests prefer to distract them from the crops that farmers are trying to grow. Once insects congregate on trap crops hand picking or other type of control is easier. Plants that have purported use in such a way include Dill (Anethum graveolens), Zinnias (Zinnia spp.), Marigolds (Tagetes spp.), Eggplant (Solanum melongena), Mustard (Brassica nigra) and Nasturtiums (Trapaeolum sp.) (R. B. J. Yepsen, 1976). i have personally observed the preference of Japanese beetles for Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) and types of Knotweed (Polygonum spp.) versus other typical fare. Dissenters, however, state that trap crops might simply act to bring in more pests to the general area as is also possibly the case with pheromone lures.

A trend may also be observed in plant families that are claimed to repel pest insects. Some overlap can be seen between these plants and plants that encourage beneficial insects. The Onion family (Alliaceae) is the chief repellant to pests and the use of garlic sprays as a pest deterrent is well known. Other families that are often used to deter pests include the Sunflower (Asteraceae), Mint (Lamiaceae), and Mustard (Brassicaceae) (R. B. J. Yepsen, 1976). Often these plants are installed as “companions” along with more intentional crops. The next level of protection would seem to include grinding up various species and spraying them on the crops for more inclusive coverage. Such a technique has been alluded to before through the practice of biodynamics and other sources (H. Philbrick & J. Philbrick, 1974; R. B. J. Yepsen, 1976).  However, i am not aware of specific formulations and their efficacy on particular pests. The potential deleterious effects on beneficial insects and human applicators is also unknown to me. Further research in this arena might greatly benefit the organic plant production community.

Some plants can also be employed to kill insects outright. Typically most “organic” insecticides have come from tropical areas. Some examples include Rotenone, Sabadilla, Ryania and Pyrethrum. Native and naturalized plants that are listed for such a use include American Plum (Prunus americana), Hops (Humulus lupulus), Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum), Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Cucumber (Cucumis sativus), Pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita spp.), False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), Larkspur (Delphinium sp.), Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), Peach (Prunus persica), Chamomiles (Matricaria spp.) and Calamus (Acorus calamus) (Jacobson, 1958). A type of rotenone has also been produced from a native Appalachian plant called the Hoary pea (Tephrosia virginiana) (Horn, Duhl, Hemmerly, & Cathcart, 2005). Research from China may offer insights. Different species of many genera that occur in Appalachia and a number of exotic invasives from Asia have been tested for pest control properties (Yang & Tang, 1988). Caution is certainly appropriate in regards to the use of pesticides. Often the effects can be wide spread and long lasting. Some of the benefits of accepted organic insecticides are that they tend to be more focused on particular pests and do not persist in the environment. However, even some organic insecticides are broad spectrum and affect a wide array of organisms. My thinking is that further experimentation with local sources of insecticides that can be applied judiciously when appropriate might decrease dependence on tropical products and synthetic alternatives.

Plant Biodiversity for Birds

My research to date has mainly been focused with the interface between people and plants. However, many people enjoy observing birds. Many bird species are also suffering from declining populations (Boone & Aplet, 1994; Marinelli, 2008). Some birds may in addition help with control of pests in the garden. Therefore, a treatment of major plants for encouraging the success of bird life is in order. Scientific names of the birds have been omitted for the most part because i am a botanist and many sources did not list scientific names.

Two forms of plants are useful for bird feeding. A person can provide food for birds by growing plants that they prefer. Alternatively or in addition food can be provided through a variety of manufactured feeders. Plants can also be used to provide habitat as well.

Many types of fruiting plants may encourage the presence of birds. This, of course, might not always be a good thing. If you are trying to grow fruit for yourself then netting may be in order. The holy grail of bringing in birds that will only eat insects while deterring ones that eats fruits seems like a mythic objective. However, an extensive list of beneficial birds has been compiled complete with habitat requirements (Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005). Some of the birds that damage crops the most include finches, crows, sparrows, bluejays, starlings, brown thrashers, and waxwings (Martin, Zim, & Nelson, 1961).

Fruits that are not edible to humans may also be supplied as a potential distraction. Some examples of these include Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Magnolia (Magnolia spp.) and some types of Dogwoods (Cornus spp.) A number of these plants are actually toxic to humans which should be taken into account in the case of children being nearby.

Parts of Appalachia are within the Atlantic flyway that many migrating birds use when going south for the winter (Marinelli, 2008). Magnolia (Magnolia spp.) and Dogwoods (Cornus spp.) along with Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) are favorite plants of winter migrating birds (Marinelli, 2008). The ideal bird sanctuary would provide multiple types of food throughout the year. Some birds also feed on tree buds as well as seeds and fleshy fruits (Roth, 1998).

Prime plants that are recommended for feeders include Sunflower (Helianthus spp.), Millet (Panicum sp.) and the exotic Niger (             ). The height placement of feeder and the size of feeding holes are important in encouraging certain species.

Hummingbirds are often popular with gardeners. These birds are endemic to the Americas (Roth, 1998). Many people buy plastic red feeders and fill them with sugar water to attract these creatures. Red flowers can do the same thing in a more natural way. Some examples include Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), Bee Balm (Monarda spp.), Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia). In the eastern U.S. we are graced by only one species the Ruby throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).

Habitat can be created in many ways. Bird houses may be constructed from various types of wood. A novel birdhouse that has history in the south is the use of Bottle Gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) to support a community of Purple Martins (Progne subis). Chocktaws, Chickasaws and other Native American tribes encouraged purple martins to nest because these territorial animals would protect livestock from hawks and other predator birds (Roth, 1998; Wolinski, 1994). Swallows, Chickadees and Wrens also appreciate gourd houses (Roth, 1998).

A few dead trees known as snags may be left to provide a natural source of housing for various bird species. Also, some birds depend on shrubs and thickets for protection. Evergreen plants that produce attractive fall foods such as Hollies (Ilex spp.) and members of the Pine (Pinaceae) and Juniper (Cupressaceae) families can perform two functions at once.

Many birds may help control pests in the garden. Some examples include Flycatchers, Wrens, Flickers, Kingbirds, Killdeer and Warblers. Birds have co-evolved with plants over millions of years. Lots of fruits are just the right size and ready at just the right time for consumption and seed distribution by certain birds. Around 300 trees, shrubs and vines in North America depend on birds for seed distribution (Marinelli, 2008). Use of native plants versus exotics is important so that birds don’t help spread problem species around.

Plant diversity for other animals

Other animals than the ones mentioned already are of less interest to my current research. However, a brief treatment seems appropriate. Many studies have been published from the Center for Appalachian Farming Systems in regards to forage in particular Some of the main plants studied by the center which also include grain crops included in the table below.

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Lowland rice/ Upland rice

Barley (Hordeum sp.)

Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon)

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)

Chickory (Cichorium intybus)

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Corn (Zea mays)

Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

Flatpea (Lathyrus sylvestris)

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)

Wheat (Triticum aestivum)


The families of Grass, (Poaceae) and Legumes, (Fabaceae) take up a remarkable amount of space for research that spans from 1965 to 1999. These two families comprise the vast majority of plants used for livestock forage. Additional forage includes members of the Mustard (Brassicaceae), Spinach (Chenopodiaceae), Rose (Rosaceae) and Oak (Fagaceae) families. Various brambles such a multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), and other briars in Appalachian areas may be foraged on and thereby controlled by goats (Belesky, Koch, & J. Walker, 2007).  

Other wildlife may be encouraged by the presence of certain plants. These animals may be seen as a boon to some and pests to others. Deer, for example, represent a source of high quality meat but also may decimate crops and native wildflowers. Other references may aid in further exploration of the role in plants for enhancing deer and various other mammals, reptiles, etc. (Martin et al., 1961; J. H. Miller & K. V. Miller, 2005). The reference by Martin et al. (1961) uses a novel ranking system by which over 250 plants to the genus level are listed for their prevalence in the diet of hundreds of animals referenced from hundreds of thousands of analyses. The country is broken into five regions and most of Appalachia falls into the Northeast including parts of Georgia and Alabama. Oak (Quercus spp.), Pine (Pinus spp.), Cherry (Prunus spp.), Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Dogwood (Cornus spp.), Grape (Vitis spp.) and Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) make up some of the most important food sources for both the southeast and northeast regions (Martin et al., 1961). A more modern resource may also be consulted for understanding how to encourage a wider range of beneficial organisms (Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005).

The Role of Environmental Education in Promoting Biodiversity

i feel that the most important way to ensure and increase biodiversity is by getting more people to appreciate it. Luckily an inherent affinity for nature may be fundamental to all people at a base level. The more we understand the diversity of nature the more we will be able to value and appreciate it (Harper-Lore & Wilson, 2000). Significant research on various population demographics has offered insight into how people connect with and value nature (Kahn Jr, 2001). Many people in the developed world have become divorced from their dependence on nature in the last 50 years. Such ignorance allows for the death and destruction of the natural ecosystems that we see today. All age demographics need to become educated about the role of nature in our lives. However, school age people are more primed for such an experience and possibly more receptive as well. Starting with children in particular has much appeal.

Joseph Cornell  (1998, 1999) is one of the foremost environmental educators for children in the world. He has written books that have inspired many. He has four basic principles: Awaken enthusiasm, Focus attention, Direct experience, and Share inspiration. Many activities have been designed to get children to have a sense of wonder that will allow for transformation (Lachecki, Passineau, Linnea, & Treuer, 2002). A book has also been published that has specific activities related to Smoky Mountains National Park (Voorhis & Saville, 1993).

People in urban environments also have a role to play in aiding biodiversity. Much prime habitat has been lost through the process of population growth. Urban dwellers with small yards can provide much needed way posts for wildlife (Tallamy, 2009). Flowers and vegetables can be grown in containers adding aesthetic beauty and functionality all in one.


            Plant biodiversity depends upon a number of non-plant biota. i have presented in this class how the interface between plants and people as well as birds and other organisms affect overall biodiversity. The complexity of interactions illustrated serves to round out the role that plants play in the environment.

            Plant poisons also can deleteriously affect biodiversity of various creatures. Often plant poisons affect human children by accident.  Such occurrences may be avoided with proper awareness. Increased knowledge of the natural world will not only lead to greater safety but often greater appreciation as well. Other plant poisons may be employed judiciously to protect crops from unwanted predation. However, such actions are not to be taken lightly as they may have far reaching effects beyond the target organism.

Future sustainability definitely depends on our ability to support biodiversity…

For the next class we will cover major temperate Tree families and it will be posted around September 17th

Below are items to think about/comment on. Please write me directly at or leave information in the commentary under this class. Save your comment text before submitting if possible as sometimes our spam filter seems to reject them. The problem seems to be connected to how much time you take to submit. I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY!!!

-          Make a list of the plants around you that support wildlife and share that info with some people

-          Look up some of the families mentioned in this post in Botany in a Day and share some information about them with the group. Or provide info from your personal experience

-          Attend a workshop or a class and write up a brief description of plants or information learned.

-          Post any clear photos of question plants to Facebook or send in an email.

Praises to all that have donated to the cause. i encourage everyone reading this to donate as they are able financially, commentarialy, or energetically... Your contributions greatly help me continue this crucial work of ethnobotanical research and education. Please let me know your thoughts in general and any way i can help this class serve you best.

Thanks, marc

Literature Cited

Abelman, M. (2005). Fields of Plenty. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Ashworth, S., & Whealy, K. (2002). Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners (2nd ed.). Decorah, Iowa: Seed Savers Exchange.

Ausubel, K. (1994). Seeds of Change: The Living Treasure: The Passionate Story of the Growing Movement to Restore Biodiversity and Revolutionize the Way We Think About (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Harpercollins.

Bailey, R. G. (1995). Description of the Ecoregions of the United States. Miscellaneous publication / United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service ;1391. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Belesky, D., Koch, D., & Walker, J. (2007). Forbs and Browse Species. Forages: The Science of Grassland Agriculture (Vol. 2). Ames, IA: Blackwell Pub.

Boone, D. D., & Aplet, G. H. (1994). Sustaining Biodiversity in the Southern Appalachians. Living landscape. Washington, DC: Wilderness Society.

Bubel, N. (1988). The New Seed-Starters Handbook. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.

Burford, T. (1998). Apples: A Catalog of International Varieties (Rev.). Monroe, VA: Burford Brothers.

Calhoun, C. L. (1995). Old Southern Apples. Blacksburg, Va.: McDonald & Woodward Pub. Co.

Cornell, J. B. (1998). Sharing Nature with Children, 20th Anniversary Edition. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Pubns.

Cornell, J. B. (1999). Sharing Nature with Children II. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications.

Cranshaw, W. (2004). Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Crawford, M., & Agroforestry Research Trust. (1994). Directory of Apple Cultivars. Torquay: Agroforestry Research Trust.

Dufour, R. (2000). Farmscaping to Enhance Biological Control. ATTRA, National Center for Appropriate Technology. Retrieved from

Ellis, B. W., & Bradley, F. M. (Eds.). (1996). The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden & Yard Healthy Without Chemicals. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.

Fabricant, F. (2000). The Great Potato Book. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

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