Into the Weeds

I recently attended a workshop called “Into the Weeds” at the Audubon Society of Portland, where I learned all kinds of interesting information about weeds, invasive species and native plants. While all of the info was valuable, I thought I’d share a few highlights I found particularly interesting.

Did you know that you can report invasive weeds to the Oregon Invasives Hotline, and depending on the plant species and location, they may send a team out to come and remove the weeds for you? If you’re not sure if the plant is a noxious weed in Oregon, check out some examples at http://www.oregon.gov/oda/plant/weeds/Pages/index.aspx.

When discussing weeds and their effect on natural habitats and wildlife, the importance of native plants is an obvious topic to include. I’ve long understood that since native plants are adapted to our environment, they require less supplemental water, prevent erosion and provide habitat for wildlife. However, I didn’t realize the extent of natives’ support to wildlife versus exotic (non-native) plants. For example, non-native varieties of Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry) support 8 different kinds of moths and butterflies. The native Vaccinium ovatum, however, provides food for 286 different butterflies and moths. Wow! That is a huge discrepancy. Many other similar examples were shared, and the disparities between the quantities of birds, pollinators, butterflies, etc. supported were equally impressive.

Another take-away from the workshop that resonated with me:  the berries of Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo) are toxic to birds. I like including plants with berries in designs to add winter interest, and Heavenly Bamboo seemed like a good fit in many instances. It has evergreen foliage, varieties can be found in different sizes, it has nice fall color… but now I know a serious downside to this common shrub. Sarcococca may be my replacement for now; I’m still looking.

Also of note, lunch during the workshop was catered by Lardo, and while I rarely get excited about sandwiches, wow, the food was outstanding! The Pork Meatball Banh Mi was seriously delicious, and what’s not to like about a Fried Chicken Sandwich?