Written By: Andrea Bond, BRN Intern
Hello, Andrea here! Borderland’s BECY program recently did a planting project at Patagonia Flower Farm, planting native plants for both use and appearance. One of the most abundant species they planted was the Arizona Milkweed, definitely a plant worth a blog post! So this weeks blog is about the genus Asclepias--The Milkweeds.
While some may call this plant a weed or dangerous, those are both misconceptions. First, the Milkweed is a necessary native plant with a nice appearance, not a weed. Second, it is possible to eat too much milkweed and be harmed by the toxins inside, but it takes a large amount and animals don’t like to eat this bitter plant. Small children should be warned about the potential danger, but the danger is not so large that the milkweed should be outed from your yard or garden.
So why is the milkweed so necessary? Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweeds, meaning the survival of the monarch is directly tied to the survival of this plant! Monarch populations are decreasing alarmingly, so having milkweeds in your yard or garden is one of the best ways to support these beautiful creatures. Milkweeds are also used by many, many other pollinators, and are an important part of supporting all pollinators in our area.
Milkweed is not only useful for pollinators, but also humans! Herbalists have used milkweeds for everything from chest pain to fever, warts to indigestion. Saying it has widely varied uses is an understatement! However, while these are traditional uses, milkweeds are strong enough that they are not good for tonics. Leave this one to the professionals.
The steroids called cardenolides are thought to be the root of many of the milkweed’s uses. Different milkweeds have different levels of these cardenolides, and there are many different milkweeds across the United States. Here in Arizona, there are at least 29 native species, though the one the BECY students planted was the Arizona Milkweed.
Another special part of the milkweed is that Native Americans traditionally used milkweed for repelling insects, and the fiber inside milkweed stems and seed pods to create products like bowstrings, nets, baskets, and more. The milkweed was also used by the United States during World War II to line life jackets and flight suits, serving an important role in wartime shortage.
Perhaps in the future we will see more uses for milkweed, in pest control, down substitutes, or more! It’s always fun to have plants with stories in your yard or garden and milkweed has many and many great uses.
We will have several different kinds of milkweed available at our Monsoon Plant Sale tomorrow 9 - 3PM. Perfect time to pick a few up for your yard!
Written By: Andrea Bond
Hello! I’m Andrea, a veteran of BRN’s 2018 Field School, currently interning with the Seed Lab and Nursery. Part of my internship is to write a few blog posts focusing on native plants we’ve been working with, and how these plants are good for human uses, as well as ecologically.
That’s me on the right!
(Please note that I am not an herbalist or medical doctor. I am only conveying information I learned from various references.)
First up is Monarda fistulosa (var menthifolia), aka: Bee Balm, Wild Oregano, Mountain Oregano. My first day working at the nursery we took cuttings of bee balm plants to further propagate them, which smelled very good!
Image Retrieved from The Xerces Society, check them out at https://xerces.org/
In addition to being used by many pollinators, most notably moths and bees, this plant is also a beautiful addition to a yard/garden. What makes it special is the thymol, carvacrol, and eugenol compounds it contains—similar to its “cousin” oregano (both plants are part of the mint family Laminaceae). Scientific studies have been conducted on these compounds’ medicinal properties that support the traditional medicinal uses of bee balm by Native Americans and oregano by Eurasians.
Like oregano, bee balm can be eaten as an herb either fresh or dried, for flavor and the vitamins and antioxidants it contains. Its herbal flavor is similar to oregano and other mint relatives, and somewhat like bergamot. In teas, poultices (for skin wounds), infusions, and tinctures it is great for immune system support, and to fight bacteria and inflammation.
I was introduced to bee balm by it being infused in honey, which is used for allergy symptoms. It’s a simple preparation using fresh leaves left in honey for a certain period of time (around a month, but it varies depending on the strength you desire and the potency of the leaves), and then strained out leaving the honey flavored and infused with the phenols from the leaves. Remember to completely submerge the leaves in the honey, so that they do not rot. Honey is amazing by itself, but infusing it in this way gives you an extra boost when you need it.
Thanks for reading! Look out for parts two and three of these Plant Power posts!
Written By: Randi Trantham
Hi everyone! My name is Randi and I was recently brought on to the Native Plant Materials Program as a Botany Intern. I am originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico where I attended New Mexico State University and received my BS in Biology with my main focus being on plant science. Meanwhile, I worked at a fisheries lab studying the White Sands pupfish. While on this project I was tasked with creating a protocol for measuring riparian and aquatic plant growth at our field sites. After graduating I went on to get my MS in Curriculum & Instruction for Secondary Science Education. After completing my Master’s my husband and I took jobs as science teachers in Buckeye, AZ. When we left Buckeye and moved to Patagonia I knew I wanted to use my science background again and began actively looking to work with Borderlands.
I am almost a third of the way through with my internship and so far I have gotten to do some pretty awesome stuff. I spend part of my time at the Seed Lab learning to clean and package different types of seed (some more persistent seeds of which I still find in my clothing). The majority of my time is spent at the BR Nursery learning different techniques and practices to grow native plants. Specifically about native plants that we are growing in the greenhouse and the conditions in which they thrive in the wild. In the last few weeks, I have been learning to collect some springtime seeds and how to take cuttings from various plants.
After leaving teaching my mental health was a little beaten up. Teaching is hard! In no rush to return to the field of education I began searching for a job that would use my research background. During my adult life I became concerned with the state of our environment and this became something that was very important to me personally. I love that besides trying to live differently at home in small ways, I also get to make small (but great) differences through my job. I have seen small glimpses of the projects and goals that Borderlands strives towards and I look forward to experiencing them myself. Besides the rewarding work that I have been able to be a part of, the people I work with are so wonderful. I can truly say that I love the people at the Native Plant Materials Program. Everyone I have had the pleasure of working with has been extremely kind and helpful. This really is a great place to work and turned out to be exactly what I needed. :)
Written by: Francesca Claverie
This last Saturday, June 8th, the Native Plant Materials Program hosted our first Native Plant Propagation and Nursery Management class at our nursery space in Patagonia, AZ. Our Native Plant Materials Program management has taught many workshops and classes before on seed collection, and propagation but we usually teach them through a grant, a conference, our summer school, and other consult services. This class was advertised for just over a month, and we are proud to report that we had a full class of 12 people attend the workshop and we couldn’t be happier about it’s success! All the participants were enthusiastic, keen, and asked some wonderful question and participated in fun nursery discussions from clonal propagation to bench-pallet quality.
The mission of our Native Plant Program is to promote biodiversity by providing access to restoration-quality native plant materials. Native plants have edible, medicinal, and aesthetic value and support basic ecosystem function. We seek to heal the land and ourselves by exploring a culture of place, centered on a rich relationship with our native flora. Part of this exploration centers on encouraging native plant interactions, and the creation of more regional programs that use local plant genetics for use in the wild and cultivated landscape. This class specifically covered a tour of our facilities, the importance of the National Seed Strategy, container plant production timelines, species palettes, seed propagation: scarification and stratification, clone propagation: hormone, cuttings types, disease and pest control, soil types, and greenhouse construction.
The next class our native plant program will offer is a 2-day wild seed collection and curation class in September. We are not yet accepting sign ups for this class, but will be advertising it towards the end of summer. Wish us luck on this first nursery class, and stay tuned for more native plant classes throughout the year! If you have questions or inquiries email email@example.com. Thanks!
Written By: Yari Cortez
We never have much to report on in admin, so here we are trying to make an exciting post, yeay! There are lots of changes in our BRN family and I am excited to share those with you. Our bookkeeper, Alex Hawkins who has been with us for a little over a year now is now promoted to Finance Manager! She has done an amazing job for our organization and continues to make things happen. We regret saying goodbye to our development and communications director, Kate Peake, as she did such amazing work for BRN, but look forward to welcoming our new development director, Sarah Taylor in June! We also regret saying goodbye to Alyssa Navarrette as she was an amazing asset to our development and admin team as well. Peg Furst our wonderful admin director will now be consulting for BRN starting in June as well! Our incredible executive director, Kurt Vaughn, just recently opened the doors to fatherhood and is out on paternity leave. Parenting is fun, Kurt!
BRN Admin is so talented that we provide services to our partnering organizations. In addition to Wildlife Corridors and Borderlands Restoration L3C, we now provide services to Deep Dirt Institute, and Cuenca Los Ojos. We now have 5 organizations that we do administrative services for and Borderlands Restoration Network is more of a network than ever before!
I’m the grants & contracts administrator and I’m also working on a project. I have always provided IT services in the 2 years I have worked here, but I am now coming up with an IT project that will benefit our organization and our partners. From structuring an easily accessible network to providing the tools and resources our programs need to succeed. I am super excited on the organization and structure our “IT department” will have now. I am currently taking some training hoping to make this a great experience for everyone!
I know its an admin spotlight, but we are so excited about our upcoming summer programs which will have us busy busy busy here in admin! Field school and BECY preparations are underway and all our programs are working together to have a successful 2019 summer!
Written By: Perin McNelis
The BRN Native Plant Material Program just wrapped up it’s second year participating in the annual Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson! The festival expanded this year to be “a city-wide, ten-day destination event that spotlights the southwest region through the lens of the agave plant.” BRN’s Native Plant Materials Program co-manager, Francesca Claverie, and our collaborator from the Collectivo Sonora Silvestre, Valeria Cañedo, presented along-side agave spirit producers and conservationists at Exo Bar on our Agaves for Bats Initiative through Bat Conservation International. The event was well attended and the the presentation was received with interest and enthusiasm for our bi-national conservation efforts in conjunction with celebration of agave based products and their cultural importance. Francesca presented again at the Agave Expo event at Hotel Congress, where the BRN Native Plant Materials team also had a table with educational materials, Agave palmeri plants and seedballs, and our new t-shirts, designed by friend of BRN, Mike Otero (available online here). The team met many agave spirit producers and conservationists working in Mexico, including biologist David Suro, who showed sincere interest in potential future collaborations with BRN. All in all, the festival was a great success! These kinds of outreach opportunities are imperative to educating our communities about the work we do in the borderlands, and to spreading awareness of the varied impacts human actions have on our landscapes so that we can garner support for restoration work and so that people can learn about what kind of actions they can take in their daily lives to support ecosystem health. We look forward to participating again next year!
Written By: Perin McNelis
The BRN Native Plant Materials Program is lucky to have consistent help from a robust group of enthusiastic volunteers. In this post, we would like to highlight one of our die-hard volunteers, John Hughes. John has come to our Tuesday volunteer mornings since 2014 to transplant, propagate, take cuttings, weed, or any other task that comes up. And he does so with such care and an eagerness to get his hands in the dirt! A retired middle school science teacher and avid birder, John spent many winters in Patagonia with his wife, Kathy, returning to Montana each year from April until Fall. Luckily for us, John and Kathy fell in love with Patagonia and decided to move here full time! They sold their house in Montana and are now in the process of building their home in Patagonia. John’s love and knowledge of the natural world, along with positive attitude, make him a wonderful part of the team.
John is also a dedicated volunteer for the Tucson Audubon Society at the Paton Center, the Friends of Sonoita Creek, and the Dirt Bags trail crew. BRN is so impressed with John’s commitment to local restoration efforts and we are grateful to have John in Patagonia, working hard with the community to restore and maintain the health of our beautiful home landscape. Thank you John for all you do!
By: Alyssa Navarrette-Cazares
Borderlands Restoration is growing nearly 2,000 agave in our nursery here in Patagonia, Arizona, for a collaboration with Bat Conservation International to spread thousands of these plants to support migratory pathways of nectar-feeding bats in southern Arizona. Nectar-feeding bats, specifically the Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris Mexicana) and lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris-Curasoae), migrate north from Mexico in the summer to roost and rear their young in caves of northern Sonora, Chihuaua, Arizona, and New Mexico.
We need your help to create an environment that can help salvage this ancient relationship between bats and agave. Very much like a bee and flower relationship, without bats, there are no agave and without agave, there are no bats. These bats made the endangered species list in the 1980's. When agaves are farmed for mescal, the plant is harvested before bloom; these same practices are used in wild-harvesting, and as demand for tequila, bacanora, and other mescals increases in the United States, significant pressure is placed on wild populations of agave - and so too, wild bat populations are under pressure.
Uniquely, we work with only seed grown plants for our restoration practices to promote the healthiest wild restored populations. Traditionally farmers use pups or clones of the agave; pups are more susceptible to disease and fungus that can easily spread to other pups and agave in a farm.
We are hoping this collaboration of conservationists and enthusiasts will bring wild agaves and bats back to healthy population numbers. With your donation of $15.00 for one agave or $50.00 for four agaves planted in the U.S., we can help bring back healthy patches of agave making it possible for bats to continue on their migratory voyage.
We are thrilled to be working with Naturalia a.c. & Cuenta Los Ojos to propagate plants in Mexico. The Colectivo Sonora Silvestre is another critical partner assisting in the propagation of these plants from seed. You can support these practices by donating $10.00 for one agave or $50.00 for six agaves planted in Mexico.
Borderlands Restoration Networks Nursery in Patagonia, AZ
Photo credit: usfws of the Lesser Long Nosed Bat feeding on a saguaro Blossom
Borderlands Restoration Network is a Proud Participant in Patagonia’s EARTHfest 2019
‘Youth are the Future’ EARTHfest 2019 went off without a hitch this past Saturday. Collaboratively organized by the Patagonia Museum and Borderlands Restoration Network, we enjoyed a sunny day accompanied by a variety of engaging activities. Four different musical groups joined us at the gazebo for boogey-worthy music. Educational talks were given at Cady Hall and Town Hall that spanned topics from tree ring studies to water in the Patagonia Mountains. Booths shared information on Sonoita Creek, electricity and the Arizona Trail. Many lucky folks walked away with science and nature themed books provided by the Patagonia Library and native plants from Borderlands Restoration. Kids were spotted throughout the day with painted faces, flying colorful kites, doing kids yoga and walking along the new Patagonia Story Walk, featuring The Three Little Javelinas, put on by the library. All the while, attendees were fueled by delicious burritos and BBQ.
We had a record number of attendees this year as over 200 people gathered in Patagonia to celebrate Mother Earth, Arizona Trails Day, and Arbor Day, and we hope that this number will only continue to climb in the upcoming years. The EARTHfest committee is always open to new ideas, new booths, and new ways to show appreciation for this planet we call home. As well, we invite any interested community members to join the planning committee.
EARTHfest 2019 was a joyful celebration of Mother Earth, made even better by the many community members who came out to share information, experiences, and resources with our local youth helping to inspire the next generation of land stewards.
BRN's Native Plant Material Program was very happy to host Carla Vargas-Frank of Yerba Nomadica for an herbalism workshop on April 6th! The workshop focused on Spring in the Sky Islands, and how plant medicine can be used to support our bodies' natural cleansing systems during this time when some themes from the seasonal transition we see in nature are mirrored in our bodies. Participants tasted different plant medicines for activating the lymphatic system, digestion, and circulation to encourage movement, clearing out and breaking up of the stagnation of Winter. We learned about some plant genera that are useful medicines during allergy season and that we have species native to the Sky Islands, including Ceanothus, Solidago, Ambrosia, Achillea, and Anemopsis. Finally, we learned about the importance of tasting bitter flavors in stimulating some of the systems that help us transition our bodies into the warmer months. Then we made some bitters of our own! BRN is really excited about this new collaboration, and the Native Plant Materials Program is looking forward to working with her to offer more herbalism workshops during the annual Field School and in September. Keep your eyes peeled for details of future offerings with BRN and Yerba Nomadica!
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