Central Pa Native Plant Festival - Saturday, May 6, 2023
Mark your calendars. Details coming soon.
The Dirty Dozen vs the Birdy Dozen
As you look to planning for spring during the remaining winter months, remember the Dirty Dozen, a list of twelve invasive plants frequently found at nurseries and landscape retailers that should be avoided. The Dirty Dozen
Better yet, considering adding some of the Birdy Dozen to your gardens to attract birds.
The Birdy Dozen
Check more information on Invasive Plants and recommendations for alternatives on our Plant Information and Landscaping page.
Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) You're not likely to forget the first time you see the fruit of doll's eyes aka white baneberry . Those eyeballs are creepy-cool, making this plant an "eye-catching" addition to a shade garden. (All parts of the plant contain cardiac glycosides and are extremely toxic, so doll's eyes is best grown in areas that young children and pets don't frequent.) The plant can grow 2-3' tall and wide, so give it plenty of room. It has attractive foliage and clusters of bright white flowers which bloom from late spring to early summer. Berries form and turn bright white with a dark spot (the stigma scar) which gives the appearance of doll's eyes. The raceme or stalk turns a vibrant pinkish-purple which provides beautiful contrast for the white berries. This native wildflower has a lot going for it from spring to late fall.
Doll's eyes grow best in dappled sunlight or shade to medium shade. The plant prefers neutral to slightly acidic, fertile soil. It grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil, although it tolerates most soils. Doll's eye can be propagated by division in spring or fall or by seeds contained in the berries. Planting the seeds in early autumn increases the likelihood that they'll germinate the following spring, but the plant may not flower until the second year.
Most animals leave doll's eyes alone due to the plant's toxicity. Eating the berries and other parts of the plant can lead to cardiac arrest and death for mammals. (Oddly enough, the white-footed mouse is said to eat the berries.) Birds such as ruffed grouse, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and robins safely eat the berries and help spread the plant by distributing the seeds. The flowers have no nectar, but sweat bees and other short-tongued bees visit the flowers for pollen.
Doll's eyes aka white baneberry is a striking addition to shade gardens, especially woodland gardens. When you're choosing where to plant them, just keep in mind that all parts of the plant are highly toxic to people, pets, and other mammals. And if you're out exploring Penn's Woods, make sure to keep your eyes peeled. You just might spot some doll's eyes staring back at you! If you don't mind getting wet, you may even see them crying in the rain.
If you have a favorite plant or photo, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for a future publication.
Article and photo courtesy of Karen Smith
What is a Native?
A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. We consider the flora present at the time Europeans arrived in North America as the species native to the eastern United States. Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Because native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live, they are often easier to grow, and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Many Non-native plants are also invasive, and threaten out our native plant species.
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