ALCS Native Wildflowers Projects Bear Fruit
June 20, 2017
Since its beginning in 2004, ALCS has maintained an annual effort to reintroduce, distribute, and propagate native plants and especially native wildflowers on several sites throughout eastern, southcentral, central, and northcentral Pennsylvania. These are sites under ownership or management of ALCS. Also, all of our work sites receive plantings of fruit and nut trees, or native wildflower seeds. Many are planted in remote corners or out-of-the-way spots where they are less likely to be mowed, eaten, or picked.
Wood sorrel, various trilliums, pink ladyslipper, woods moccasin, trout lilies, bloodroot, some orchids, and Jack-in-the-pulpit are typical wildflowers that ALCS plants annually.
Despite consistent annual work, professional methods, and significant geographic variation, these projects have enjoyed only varying levels of success. No project has yet birthed its full potential results. These mixed results are probably due to several major factors influencing Penn's Woods today.
"Decades of historic over browsing by overabundant deer herds was responsible for most loss of the native wildflower populations we have worked on, and deer do impact our restoration efforts, without question," says ALCS founder Josh First.
"However, we cannot discount other factors in wildflower declines, including a lack of wildfire, on which most healthy ecosystems depend, acidic rain deposition, which strips calcium from Pennsylvania soils that are already naturally acidic and limiting to what can grow, and illegal human collecting and black market sales," says First. Most seeding of fresh colonies need to be done behind wire fencing four to five feet high, or under significant piles of cut tree tops.
Fencing provides a stark visual indication of the impact even reduced deer populations have on low-growing plants like wildflowers, because the browse line inside versus outside the fence is so clear. But fencing can be expensive and difficult to maintain in rocky soils and steep topography.
"Despite the challenges and hardships we encounter, and the frustration from only infrequently seeing the fruits of our labor, we carry on, because this work is like Johnny Appleseed: Every seed we plant adds the potential for a far more diverse, healthier, more beautiful forest environment. Each seeds carries DNA, and by planting we are helping maintain biodiversity, whether that seed sprouts in a year or in ten years. Even if a magical little flower isn't growing there next year doesn't mean it was a failure. We don't really know all the long term effects of our placing native seeds in areas long devoid of them. We do know it is all good," says First.
ALCS gathers all its wildflower and tree seeds from wild plants and trees.