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Keweenaw Wild Ones: Sale, lesson in local plants

Chris Jaehnig / Daily Mining Gazette Marcia Goodrich showcases a Blue Vervain, one of many plants available at the Keweenaw Wild Ones’ online native plant sale going on this week.

HOUGHTON — The Keweenaw chapter of Wild Ones, a national organization that encourages landscaping with native plants, is currently hosting an online native plant sale, and it is more than meets the eye.

“Why native plants right, as opposed to, you know, roses or Camelias or daylilies, right?” Marcia Goodrich, head of the Keweenaw Wild Ones. “Native plants were here long before we were. They’ve been here for 1000s of years, and over that time, they developed intricate relationships with the wildlife in the area; with the insects and the birds.

“When Europeans came, we brought along our own lovely plants, and we replaced them. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t native plants around, but you don’t usually see them in gardens. For a long time that probably wasn’t a big deal because there was a lot of wild land, but It’s not that way anymore. The wild land has been invaded with invasive exotic plant species.”

“There are still a lot of native species like birch trees and white pine still around, but smaller plants are in short supply,” Goodrich said. “A short supply of native plants means that the resources that they provide to our beneficial native insects like butterflies and bees are disappearing, too. We also have an agricultural system that has wiped out a lot of native plants.”

The Keweenaw Wild Ones’ native plant sale promotes the benefits of having local flora in local areas.

Chris Jaehnig / Daily Mining Gazette A six-legged critter enjoys a sunny day on a common milkweed plant. Milkweed is a Monarch Butterfly favorite, but is enjoyed by all types of beneficial local bugs.

“There’s one great opportunity here; to incorporate native plants in our lives through our gardens, through our home gardens, through plantings in front of businesses and so forth, and that’s what Wild Ones encourages people to do. You don’t have to turn your front yard into a meadow, but you certainly can create a nice little garden devoted to native plants like a butterfly or a bee garden, or you could just incorporate some of your regular plant gardens,” Goodrich said.

The native plant sale is a way for Keweenaw Wild Ones to not only raise money for their activities, but to introduce people to native plants and to make native plants easier to get for people.

The first native plant sale was online last year due to the pandemic, and Wild Ones decided to hold it online again because of the convenience, as well as having a lack of a central place to showcase all of the available plants.

Goodrich noted that native plants can take a couple years to “really get up and going, and that’s because they’re growing their root systems. Some local plant root systems are really impressive and can be awesome at holding stormwater because they go down several feet.” The deep root systems make channels for stormwater to seep into.

Goodrich recalled her house having been saved from the Father’s Day flood because she had a “rain garden” that was highly adapted to receiving and collecting water by deep root channels.

“It’s better than a levy, because water soaks into the ground floor, and can become useful,” Goodrich said.

Keweenaw Wild Ones grows some of the plants for the sales, but the bulk come from Bay College.

Offered plants include Wild Columbine, three varieties of Milkweed (which are Monarch Butterfly favorites), Wild Bergamot, yellow Dogtooth Daisies, New England Asters (which have pink or purple blossoms), fern varieties, Riverbank Grapes, Lanceleaf Coreopsis (a cheery plant that flowers early and often), and four mini-gardens for butterflies and bees, with much more.

The native plant sale is currently ongoing, the pickup days being June 26 and 27. Interested customers can learn more about the plants and place orders at Keweenaw.wildones.org.

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