|By Maryann Whitman
with Dow's Confront
While compost is usually seen as a natural
alternative to chemical fertilizers,
many communities were surprised to find that
their local compost supplies were contaminated
with the herbicide clopyralid, making compost
toxic to many plants, including asters and
goldenrods. Clopyralid, the active ingredient
in Dow Chemical’s
herbicide Confront, is mobile in soil
and water, allowing it to persist in the environment.
To address this issue, the Washington State
Department of Agriculture banned the use of
the herbicide on lawns and turf.
Holiday gift ideas
From Horticulture magazine… DecoColor
Permanent Paint Markers – with extra
fine points – are recommended as the
only garden marking pens that are resistant
to water and ultra-violet rays.
I can vouch for severe fading of printing
by a Sharpie Permanent Marker, after about
a year. Something I have found that works very
well is wax pencil on plastic markers and 2B
(soft) pencil on matte metal. I get my metal
markers from Paw Paw Everlast Label, P.O. Box
93-T, Paw Paw, MI 49079; email@example.com.
Recycle vinyl mini-blinds for marker sticks.
Cut to desired length and with a point at one
end, they last indefinitely except if fire
is used as a management tool. The ink in Sharpie
pens does not last on mini-blinds either, but
perhaps DecoColor does. Five years after planting
and marking with the miniblind, when a prairie
plant at last made its presence known, I knew
it was my planting by the stick next to it,
even though the script had long faded.
Think twice about wild grape
There is no question that a strong, thick
grapevine can kill a tree by shading the leaves
of the tree. But consider this: the death of
mature trees is part of a natural process,
allowing sunlight to reach the ground level
through a dense canopy, and making room for
Consider also the birds that feed on the fruit;
the shelter the vines provide, and the birds
that use the shreds of grapevine bark to build
It takes a number of years of growth before
a grapevine starts producing fruit. Consider
leaving a few that are not climbing your favorite
Read in fall, 2003 issue of The Nature Conservancy
In his recently published book, Win-Win Ecology:
How the Earth’s Species Can Survive in
the Midst of Human Enterprise, author Michael
Rosenzweig makes the case that traditional
reserves, parks refuges and other designated
natural areas, will, at best, secure roughly
5 percent of the world’s species. In
a review of the book, renowned Stanford conservation
biologist Gretchen Daily writes, “A world
in which conservation effort is sequestered
in a minor fraction of the earth’s surface
will be a biologically inhospitable world.
Save biodiversity in a hostile sea of development?
You bet. However absurd or offensive this idea
might seem, it is the only option.”
I wonder if she knows about Wild Ones’ philosophy
Fire has cleansing properties
University of Florida researchers say that
fire may be a key to dogwood anthracnose resistance.
They’ve found that trees in the wild
survive the disease better in areas that have
been previously subject to forest fires. Results
of further research may lead to controlled
burns to help protect the trees, which have
been threatened by the anthracnose epidemic.
It’s estimated that the disease has killed
90% of the native East Coast Cornus florida
populations since the late 1970s. For more
info go to http://extlabl.entnem.ufl.edu/PestAlert/dogwood.htm.
Something else we need to think about
We Wild Ones members have long been aware
of how appropriate and useful fire can be in
the management of some ecosystems, like prairies,
savannahs, woodlands and even forests. (There
are notable exceptions to the usefulness of
fire in some parts of the country.) Among other
beneficial effects, it helps control the incursion
of invasive aliens, and it reduces the density
of non-fire tolerant species (both native and
non-native), thereby promoting the rehabilitation
of shade intolerant species. By understanding
the benefits of fire we are able to perceive
the resulting blackened earth and dead and
dying trees as part of a natural and necessary
progression of events that benefits the ecosystem
and promotes biodiversity.
I recall the shock that rippled through the
nation in 1988 when the land management people
of Yellowstone National Park opted toward the
end of the summer of that year to let the fires “burn
themselves out.” That may have been the
first time this generation had heard of such
a thing. We had grown up with Smokey the Bear
and the notion that fire was the enemy and
here was a National Park letting the enemy
win. The action bordered on un-American activity.
However, those of us who listened to the rationale
behind this decision and subsequently followed
the recovery in Yellowstone learned how useful
the “enemy” could be when handled
with care. Foresters have been educated about
the benefits of fire since the late 1960s.
It seems now that the education needs to reach
the ears of the public who only see the immediate
aftereffects of a burn or fire. Just as we
Wild Ones members have been instrumental in
spreading the word about the deleterious effects
of invasive aliens, about the benefits of using
native plants in our landscapes, and about
the benefits of reducing the amount of mowed
lawn in our landscapes, we need also to spread
the word about the benefits of fire to ecosystems
and to biodiversity.
Recently the Wisconsin DNR was ordered to
remove dead trees left behind by a permitted,
controlled burn. The public did not understand
the natural progression that was being incited,
and saw only the “ugly” carcasses
that spoke of death and invoked thoughts of
It is possible that we who burn and promote
the use of fire as a tool need to take into
account the sensibilities of a public that
does not “see with our eyes,” a
public whose perceptions are based on another
set of lessons. Just as we have been working
to educate ourselves and our neighbors on the
writing and interpretation of weed ordinances,
and the visual acceptability of naturally landscaped
yards we now need to do the same regarding
the benefits of fire in some ecological circumstances.
Mandy Ploch, Milwaukee-North (WI) Chapter,
was fortunate to be able to horseback
ride in the Bob Marshall Wilderness (MT)
two years after the big fires. The beauty was
surreal with the sun shining silver and grey
off the standing burned tree trunks and
the floor carpeted entirely in magenta fireweed. “It
was a lovely two-color composition I
will always remember. I look forward to returning
there in 2004 to see the changes time
I’d be pleased to hear from other Journal
readers about this subject. Feel free to e-mail
me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryann Whitman is a member of the Oakland
(MI) Chapter and the Journal’s editor-in-chief.
to the Grapevine page.