Pollinator project promotes native plants that nurture

Last year, at a meeting of Morgantown North Rotary, the group realized that a lot of its members have agricultural experience.

They were considering their strengths while in search of a signature project, and this field of expertise turned out to be key in the group’s decision.

“When we looked around the room it made sense,” said outgoing Rotary club president Becky Hunn. “And we saw a need.”

This need was for a pollinator project, which is just what the group initiated. Through this project, Morgantown North Rotary is promoting pollinator-friendly and native plants, and hopes to educate the community and grow a network.

This project pulls at my heart strings. I understand the need to nurture pollinator habitat, and also feel like I can always learn more about how to do that. There are always more plants and pollinators to learn about and come to appreciate. For example, a tidbit I gleaned from my conversation with these Rotary club members is that mason bees are better pollinators than honey bees — much better, in fact.

Becky pointed out that pollinator habitat has been declining for decades due to human behavior.

“We want people to know they can take a small yard and plant a few things that will make a big difference,” Becky said.

Earlier this year, the club held a plant sale at the last winter farmers market of the season at Mylan Park. The sale was a success and they plan to make this an annual event.

Nicole Gerard, incoming club president pointed out that many plants have pretty flowers but don’t actually provide much nutrition to pollinators.

Andrew Price, previous Morgantown North Rotary president, agreed and specified that many plants for sale are bred for aesthetics — anything with a double flower probably won’t do much for pollinators.

“Most herbs are pollinator friendly,” Andrew said; he also especially likes sunflowers and anything with a trumpet shaped flower for pollinators.

“Yarrow is one of my favorites,” Nicole said, “and milkweed.”

Becky mentioned comfrey — “it’s like a cloud of butterflies, moths and bees.”

I brought up non-native plants. Nicole said their project emphasizes native plants, but some non-natives can be OK in moderation. Becky mentioned zinnias as a non-native pollinator-friendly plant that does not disrupt ecosystems.

The group plans to do educational presentations.

“We are working on putting on a seed preservation workshop,” Becky said, to teach folks how to harvest and store seeds properly.

They are also planning an educational event focused on milkweed.

In addition to the plant sale and presentations in the works, the group maintains Star City waterfront landscaping gardens and sells handmade flower presses. Soon they will have small flower presses which can be taken on hikes or other outings.

If you want to get involved in this project, you can reach out to Nicole at [email protected].

Although the problem of declining pollinator habitat can feel overwhelming, if you plant some flowers you will quickly see that just a few blooms will attract a variety of insects.

While adding some native plants to your yard or even in pots by your doorstep may not outweigh loss of habitat completely, if we all do a little bit we can make a big difference.

Keeping native pollinators alive and thriving is important not just for their own sakes (which is a very good reason), but because our food depends on it — if plants aren’t pollinated by bees, flies, butterflies and other critters, they won’t reproduce and grow the food we eat.

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, exploring possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email [email protected].