To say that it has been a strange beginning of spring for people and communities is obviously a tremendous understatement. However, looking out our windows, going for walks, and even shoveling out from one more snowstorm reminds us that longer, warmer days are coming. Whether we are confined to our homes and social distancing or not, birds are returning, insects are emerging, and woody plants are budding as April approaches.
Another sure sign of spring at Maine Audubon the past few years has been the beginning of shipments of native seedlings from our reputable and like-minded wholesale vendors. The first batch arrived at Gilsland Farm late last week—a beautiful flat of Campanula rotundifolia, or Blue Bellflower. Here they are after getting transplanted into larger pots for growing on for a few months, until they are ready for dozens of you, all across Maine, to take home.
Like so many of the species we grow and promote, this is a genus that has been cultivated, genetically altered, and/or transported around the globe for decades. As a result, most of what you see of Campanula in your local nursery (such as non-native species and/or those with a name in quotes after the species name) aren’t likely to serve as caterpillar hosts the way the straight species native to Maine has for millennia. That means that if you are a Mouse Amphipyra moth (Amphipyra tragopoginis), you won’t lay your eggs on them. And that means if you are a bird that was hoping to feed your nestlings some of those tasty and nutritious caterpillars, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Birds that migrate to Maine to nest and rear young depend on our landscapes for caterpillars to feed those nestlings. Those caterpillars in turn rely on landscapes full of native species of host plants. If our landscapes are covered with lawns, exotic species, and cultivars, the birds won’t nest or the nestlings won’t survive. Count on Maine Audubon to choose, grow, and sell plants that will host caterpillars and feed baby birds—if we sell and promote it, it’s because birds and insects depend on it.
It’s not too late. You are actually early if you are reading this before Saturday, June 13. Maine Audubon’s Native Plants Sale & Festival will feature Campanula rotundifolia and about 80+ other straight species of Maine native plants that will help restore all of those critical ecological connections, and make your garden and yard look beautiful, too. Coming soon: complete details about the sale, and our online native plant finder!