|By Maryann Whitman
Friend or foe?
It seems that the lowly and much maligned,
alien dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
does benefit the soil in which it grows.
It prefers to root in decalcified, poor
soil. Its strong taproot then breaks into the
soil and, from below the hard pan, brings
up calcium and other minerals, which become
available to other plants when the dandelion
dies. I suppose what this means is that you
should compost the dandelions you pull, after
removing the seed heads.
Dandelion seed, by the way, is somewhat different
from most other seeds. It contains an asexually
produced embryo that is a clone of the mother
plant (you might say that you’re killing
the same plant over and over). Since the embryo
is genetically identical to the mother plant,
which survived and reproduced in a given region,
the embryo stands a much greater chance of
survival than might a sexually produced seed.
Members of the families Rosaceae and Asteraceae
are also capable of this sort of reproduction,
called apomixis, which is independent of fertilization.
You can check this for yourself in Peter Raven’s
sixth edition of Biology of Plants.
Storing past issues
What do you do with your old copies of the
Journal? Do they end up in teetering piles
on shelves, under your bed, or next to your
favorite chair? I know some of you tenderly
punch holes in them and store them for posterity
in three-ring binders. But, do you find that
in punching the holes you lose parts of some
words, and find yourself wondering whether
the word was (sp)eak, (st)eak, (str)eak, or
(l)eak? You need suffer no more. Donna VanBuecken,
our executive director, is working on making
available to us (for a modest sum), attractive
three-ring binders which contain special, thin
magazine holders that will do away with the
need to punch those pesky holes.
When the Oakland (MI) Chapter of Wild Ones
started and didn’t have much money in
its treasury, someone suggested we “pay” guest
speakers by giving them Wild Ones memberships.
We still do that.
A Wild Ones membership also can be the perfect
housewarming gift for a brand new homeowner.
Or, if you’ve just sold a home which
is naturally landscaped, how about leaving
behind a Wild Ones membership (and Journal
subscription) to encourage the new owners to
maintain that natural yard.
Donna VanBuecken tells me that some of our
members also use gift memberships as birthday
or simply I’m-glad-you’re-my-friend
gifts. What a great idea!
The Rock River Valley
(IL) Chapter is developing a program
for members' children and grandchildren.
Here the "Wild Sprouts" take a
break from learning all about seeds
Kim Lowman Vollmer, the Kids’ Committee
Chair of the Rock River Valley (IL) Chapter
sent us this inspiring bit of news. (The Rock
River Valley Chapter has 134 urban, suburban,
and rural member households.)
“Because children are our future and
all too soon they will be in charge, it is
important for them to have respect for and
love of nature. As Wild Ones members we can
help children become responsible protectors
“Therefore, it seems important to include
children in nature activities. Last fall our
chapter began this process when we had our
first activity for members’ kids, grandkids,
and young friends. We had a wonderful time
collecting seeds, learning about all the ways
seeds travel, how to germinate them, and to
identify new plants.
“Based on our initial success, we formed
a Kids’ Program Committee. In addition
to educating and inspiring our own children
and grandchildren, we hope to be a resource
to other educators/organizations in our community.
“With Earth Day activities in the air
we had our first Children’s Activity
for the year on April 28. On a cold blustery
day we spent two hours hiking, investigating,
learning, and enjoying nature with five enthusiastic
four- and five-year olds. The children,
with the help of the adults, identified 25
species, most of them in bloom. Everyone had
a great time and the kids all left with smiles.
“Up-coming activities include Binoculars-to-Berries
in late June, Insect Investigation in August,
and Seed Collecting in October. We may even
attempt a community service/stewardship project.
Our young environmentalists are called the
Rescue or salvage?
A friend recently asked me this question:
When we dig plants from a site about to be
bulldozed, are we performing a rescue or a
He argued that if the plants are replanted
in isolated places, never to communicate with
another of their own kind, which is what we
do when we plant them in most urban and many
suburban gardens, it is a salvage operation.
On the other hand, if the plants are moved
to a protected natural area, where they grow
with other members of the same species and
within a natural community, the genotype of
the stand is enriched and the plants’ life
spans will be longer. This, he argued, is a
What do you think?
overlook the savanna at the Evergreen
Retirement Community in Oshkosh,
Local miracle under the oaks
One of the places where the Fox Valley Area
(WI) Chapter meets is Evergreen Retirement
Community, a non-profit, full-spectrum housing
complex for the elderly in Oshkosh.
Along one side of the site is a lovely six-acre
oak-hickory savanna. As most readers know,
an oak-hickory savanna is a rare, ecosystem
which is threatened around the globe. Some
chapter members have worked hard to remove
the invading buckthorn, releasing the shooting
stars, wild geranium, fringed loosestrife,
Michigan lily, starry Solomon’s plume,
wood violets, great blue lobelia, and other
flora which are part of the natural community.
such as wild geranium have been
found in the oak-hickory savanna
adjacent to the retirement community.
The challenge now is to
manage the buckthorn and remove as much
of it as possible. In order to do this
the savanna has been divided into smaller
parcels that an individual “steward” might
adopt and manage. The idea is that many
hands make light work and that a sense
of ownership keeps a volunteer enthusiastic
about a project. Stewards will work independently
after training and will probably spend
about 40 hours volunteering during this
growing season. A sign in each area will
name its particular steward.
Shooting star have
also been found nearby.
is very excited about and involved with
this project. The area, which is too
low to develop and borders Sawyer Creek
for more than 1,000 feet, is open to
the public and has paths through it.
For more information, please contact Steve
Maassen at 920-233-5914, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve serves as Seeds for Education Director
on the Wild Ones Board of Directors.
Maryann is a member of the Oakland (MI) Chapter
and the Journal’s feature editor. To
submit items, please contact Maryann at Wild
Ones Journal, PO Box 231, Lake Orion, MI 48361
to the Grapevine page.