Tag Archives: conservation

January is for thinking about seeds….

January is the month that seed catalogs arrive and gardeners scrutinize them, fantasizing about rows of wholesome vegetables and beds of lavish, maybe exotic, flowers.

Some gardeners might order seeds to grow “easy, heavy-bearing, carefree vines” of giant loofah gourds, Luffa aegyptiaca, intending to gift luxurious bath sponges to cousins and friends the next Christmas. (No, it didn’t work out.)

Yesterday I found these few remaining seeds, stuck in a dried pod, overlooked by the birds and wind. They are of the common milkweed plants I put in my garden last spring, trying to do my part to help the Monarch butterfly. Populations of milkweed and Monarchs are both in serious decline.

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is a host plant for the North American Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, famous for their amazing migratory journey. They will use all species of milkweed, and only milkweed, to lay their eggs, from which the tiny caterpillars hatch and begin chomping away on the leaves. Conservationists encourage us to plant milkweed for the Monarch butterflies.

However, it is important to plant milkweed species that are native to your area. Scientists believe that many well-meaning gardeners are planting a readily available, very attractive, non-native, tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). This plant blooms longer, keeps monarchs in northern areas too long, and is detrimental to their life-cycle and health.

If you are thinking about planting milkweed, a good place to find out about species native to your area is at The Xerces Society.

Monarch Watch, a non-profit organization that focuses on the Monarch butterfly, is another great place for much information about milkweed and the Monarch butterfly.


Happy Birthday Aldo Leopold

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” ~Aldo Leopold

One of the books currently on my nightstand, A Sand County Almanac, was written by Aldo Leopold, who was born in Iowa on January 11th, 1887. Sunday was his birthday.

Aldo was a man that really knew how to look closer…

He was an author, educator, scientist, forester, and pioneer environmentalist. Considered the father of wildlife conservation, his book is a basis for modern conservation science, policy, and ethics. It is a significant work, right up there with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Thoreau’s Walden.

Leopold was a prolific writer, mainly for professional journals, technical books, and magazines, but in the late 1930’s he became determined to reach the general public with his writings. He began to re-write his essays to inform people of how the natural world worked, and to inspire them to protect it. In 1948, just after Oxford University Press agreed to publish the collection, Leopold died of a heart attack while helping a neighbor fight a brush fire. With help from his family and colleagues, one year later, in 1949, A Sand County Almanac was published.

The set of essays, in three parts, chronicles a year of nature observations, a section of life experiences, a group of philosophical writings, and ends with his famous “Land Ethic” essay. It defined a new relationship between people and nature.

“We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.” ~Aldo Leopold

Leopold understood that ethics direct individuals to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of the community. He asserted that the collective community should include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, and animals…“the land”.  He wrote “That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.

For more info, check out: http://www.aldoleopold.org/home.shtml