By Peggy Whetzel and Fran Glass
Kids were excited to spot the stuffed barred owl that served as an ambassador to the booth shared by Wild Ones and the St. Louis Audubon Society at the 2014 St. Louis Earth Day Festival in Forest Park on April 27. With visions of Hogwarts likely dancing in their heads, the kids stopped by the booth to find out more, bringing their parents with them. For their part, the parents and other visitors were attracted to the black chokeberry bushes and other native plants blooming outside the booth.
Visitors were not disappointed. Mitch Leachman, Executive Director of the St. Louis Audubon Society, used his repertoire of wildlife facts and lore to bring the message home, “Without a variety of native plants to feed our native insects, our butterflies and wild bird populations will dwindle and disappear, including monarchs and owls.”
St. Louis Wild Ones members and Habitat Advisors from St. Louis Audubon’s Bring Conservation Home (BCH) program helped to share the all-important benefits of landscaping with native plants. They explained BCH’s habitat assistance and certification program, which provides yard-specific advice on the best native plants for each site, and the importance of removing invasive species, rainwater conservation and other stewardship practices that promote healthy habitat for birds, native wildlife and people.
In addition to helpful information, interested visitors received a native black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) seedling to plant at home. Volunteers distributed 550 seedlings, which is a lot of people to reach in one day! Visitors also got a sheet of information about caring for their seedling, and a list of websites with more information.
To prepare for the giveaway, Bill Brighoff once again hosted a chatty, enjoyable and extremely efficient seedling-wrapping party at his home in Chesterfield the day before Earth Day. Six hardy volunteers tucked wet newspaper around 600 individual black chokeberry seedlings purchased from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Thanks to everyone who participated in a day that really worked!
View more photos of Earth Day and the seedling wrapping party.