Image by Tim Kennelty

Learn about wildflowers, foraging, beetles, the Audubon Native Plant Database and more!

Episode 10: Wildflowers and Foraging

In this episode, join Master Gardener Volunteers in a fascinating conversation with Tracey Testo of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties. She discusses the many wildflowers and woodland foraging opportunities that can be found in the forest. Tracey brings her passion and an amazing wealth of information that inspires us to take a fresh look at the world around us. Then stay tuned for Pests and Pathogens featuring Dede Terns-Thorpe and Jackie Hayden who discuss beetles, both good and bad. Finally, Joan Satterlee (Tools of the Trade) tells us how the Audubon Native Plant database can help you choose just the right native for your landscape.

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Guest: Tracey Testo Smith

Photo by:  Tim Kennelty


Wildflowers and Foraging (Tracey Testo):  Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: Lawrence Newcomb, Gordon Morrison: 9780316604420: BooksThe Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® ('s Harvest - Home ( Community for Naturalists iNaturalist

Beetles (Dede Terns-Thorpe and Jackie Hayden): Cornell Cooperative Extension | Beetles (; Lady Beetles (; Cornell Cooperative Extension master gardeners spot invasive, unpleasant beetles in New York's North Country The pests feast on lilies and don a protective coat of dung | Cornell Chronicle ; What You Need to Know about Reading a Pesticide Label (; Insect Control: Soaps and Detergents - 5.547 - Extension (

Audubon Native Plant Database (Joan Satterlee):;


Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members, Teresa and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.

Musical segue

Tim: Hi, I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas,

Tim: And welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. And we're going to be talking to Tracy Testo today.

Jean: And she's talking about wildflowers and foraging for food.

Tim: Yeah, wildflowers an foraging, yeah.

Jean: I'm looking forward to that because as everyone knows, by now, we're always hungry. ,

Tim: Yeah, I have to say we are always hungry. But my experience with foraging is walking into the Hannaford and looking for mushrooms in the vegetable section. So I think I'm going to learn a lot here. How about you?

Jean: Yeah, I think the free range foraging is a lot more adventurous.

Tim: I think this can be really good segment though, because she is going to talk about how you start your foraging. You're looking for things and it takes you to other parts of the woods and see other things. So it's not just foraging. It's really kind of exploring your woods. You know who else is on the show today, Jean? Dede Terns-Thorpe and Jackie Hayden. They're going to do Pests and Pathogens again, one of our favorites.

Jean: And they know so much about bugs.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, it's about the beetles today, right?

Jean: Especially beetles.

Tim: Beetles. There are lots of beetles out there, right? It's like 40% of all insects, they said are beetles. Beetles, I like beetles, but there's some really good beetles, right? Like lady beetles that eat aphids they talk about.

Jean: And the imposter lady beetles that infest your house.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, those stories. They're positive. There are some very positive beetles out and there's some very negative beetles out there that everybody knows, Japanese beetles, that do a lot of damage. So all things beetles today with Jackie and Dede. It will be really interesting, not just that there are beetles out there and what they do, but also how to manage them a little bit.

Jean: Then Joan Satterlee is talking to us?

Tim: You think she is?

Tim: Yeah, I know she is. And she's doing Tools of the Trade as she does. And it's always about some really interesting websites or books, or apps that we as gardeners use on a regular basis to help us with ID and with all kinds of things. And today, she's gonna talk about the Audubon Native Plant Finder.

Jean: I heard a rumor. And that's an online tool, right?

Tim: It is. Yeah, it's, it's amazing. There's a couple of these out there. But Audubon is really interesting, because you have been doing a lot of work on it. You just plug your zip code in, and it spits out a bunch of different plants that are native to your area.

Jean: Yes, they crank out a big list and you can fine tune it.

Tim: You can. That's right, that's right. It's really helpful, I think, because it has a large number of plants. It has their descriptions. It has their cultural requirements, and it has what birds they attract.

Jean: Yeah, and the seasons and the soil conditions and all kinds of things. They’re really thorough.

Tim: Yeah, so if you're really looking to plant native plants that support a particular type of bird or that have a particular type of aesthetic quality, berries or something like that, it's gonna be a great segment because I'm going to learn a lot I think you're going to learn that and probably our listeners will too.

Musical segue

Tim: Hi, and welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Today we're talking to Tracy Testo, who is the Subject Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties, for Agriculture and Natural Resources. We'll be talking to Tracy frequently because she runs so many interesting programs. But Tracy, could you start off with a description of what you do and what you do as an educator?

Tracey: Sure, I'd be happy to. First of all, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to have this conversation with you all. So my focus areas are on agroforestry and natural resources. And agroforestry is just a fancy word for combining trees with agricultural endeavors. I really like to explore things like forest farming, which includes mushroom cultivation, fruit and nut trees, and also understory herbs such as ginseng. And on the woodland health side of things, I also work on quite a few different topics, including deer brows impacts pressures, impacts from invasive species, and climate change. I hold in-person workshops, as well as virtual, at various locations. I'm also engaged in some statewide work on these topics. And the most fun part is I get to build demonstrations and showcase a lot of this work.

Teresa: So that certainly explains why we've already asked you to come talk with us as often as you can spare time. Could you tell us a little bit more about how you got interested in environmental subjects? I think I remember you telling me once that you started at SUNY Cobleskill, with the goal of becoming a farmer. What happened?

Tracey: Good memory there. That's right. You know, I think when whenever you take a deep dive into a topic or a subject, either on your own, or more formally through college, you either confirm that it's the right path for you, or it can lead you down a different path. And that's what happened to me. I love food and gardening and nature. And so when I began studying horticulture with the idea of vegetable farming, I really just fell in love with perennial agriculture, this type of cultivation of food and herbs, it includes nature, it includes ecological interactions, and I just realized that that was something I wanted to understand better. I wanted to foster those interactions. And I really wanted to work with those relationships. So I took a hard right turn and wound up down here at the Agroforestry Resource Center.

Tim: And there's so many things we could choose to talk to you about. But I think today we're going to ask you some questions about wildflowers and foraging. And I know that as an educator, you do some classes, and I've been on some walks of yours. So can you tell us a little bit about that.

Tracey: Sure, one of my favorite parts of this work is really engaging and educating the public, it's just really rewarding to be able to share my passions with others. We hold these workshops and classes both in Greene County and Columbia County at our two different office locations in Acra, and Hudson. I do have to say though, I focus a bit of my efforts on the Greene county location. We have a really unique resource here called the Siuslaw Model Forest and it'd sort of our outdoor classroom.

Teresa: So tell us a little bit more about the forest. As Master Gardeners, we've had to learn how to say it, Siuslaw, but there's much more to the place and unusual name. And I hear this a very unusual resource named Eric.

Tracey: That's right, Teresa. And I have to say you nailed the pronunciation of the word. It's really a wonderfully unique place. It's actually one of four New York City watershed Model Forests. These are located throughout the New York City watershed in the Catskills. And they demonstrate ways to coexist with the landscape without having negative impacts, and in fact, improving the quality of the habitat that we work with. Siuslaw wouldn't be what it is today. Without Eric Rasmussen. He donated what looks like his life's work to us. Eric was a forester by training, and he's been stewarding this land as a tree farm since the late 50s, early 60s, he knows every tree and planted most of them. Eric named this place Siuslaw after working with the US Forest Service at the beginning of his career when he was stationed in Oregon. And he worked primarily in the Siuslaw National Forest. So when he returned here to plant roots and settle down and have a family, he carried that name with him. And it's an indigenous word, it means the land of the faraway river. In Oregon, it's referring to the lands relationship with the Columbia River. But here it's referring to the Hudson.

Tim: That's such a great history. And now I think we're going to have you take us on an imaginary wildflower walk. And it's imaginary, because today it's snowing. So I think we all want to imagine that. So where would we start on this walk?

Tracey: Well, so my walks generally begin with a short overview of what we're going to set out to do that day and this goes for pretty much all of my walks. But for this one in particular, I really like to give a nice foundational overview of the plant parts and techniques for plant identification. And I prepped quite a bit before these walks. As the seasons change, the landscape changes so I really have to keep up with it. So I go out and sort of time myself as I walk around, and I find different plants in bloom that can showcase some of the different parts and structures. So participants really get an experience of working on identification of all sorts of wildflowers. And so the different flowers that I find really determine the route that I walk. And for all of the workshops I do, I pull together quite a few resources to share in an effort to allow continued education for participants after they leave the walk.

Teresa: And is this especially the way you conduct all the nature walks? What other kinds of nature walks are there, and how do people find out about them?

Tracey: Yeah, you know, I try to have most of my workshops occurring outdoors on the land, and including some type of hands-on components. Whether it's learning to use a new resource, or a forestry tool, anything to make sure participants really get that hands on engagements. Many of my workshops are focused on forest farming, as I mentioned in the beginning, so a few other hands-on activities would be included, like, you know, mushroom inoculation, or learning about different understory herbs that could actually be viewed as a crop. I also teach mushroom identification at a few different locations around Greene and Columbia counties. And all of these offerings, I try to be prepared to go off course. These are for participants, and if there are any needs and wants to dive into something unexpected, I try to accommodate that. You never know where the conversation might go, or what we might see when we're out there on these walks. And to find out about them, we send out monthly email blasts. So you can go to our website and sign up for the monthly email blast, check out our website, or even just give me a call and I'd be happy to chat with folks who are interested in learning about what I'm up to.

Tim: Okay, so I'm all signed up now. And I'm in the classroom with other people who are really interested before the walk. I assume that you have some kind of discussion there. How do you start things?

Tracey: Or yeah, every workshop that I do, I start off with a round robin of introductions and I think that some participants either love this or hate this. So I always give the option to opt out. No one is pressured into sharing anything. But um, you know, I just like to recognize that participants come to these workshops with different backgrounds, and different skill sets. I like to learn a little bit about each participant why they came and what they hope to learn. And this allows me to frame the whole workshop based on those needs. After those introductions, I provide an overview of any resources we might use. And for the wildflower workshops, it's my very favorite wildflower guide, which is simply called Laurence Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. It's actually specific to this region of the country, whereas many plant ID guides cover the whole country which is overwhelming. And it also has a really simple key to identify flowering plants. So I bring copies and make sure everyone has an opportunity to try their hand at keying out a plant. And then we head out into the fields or the woods stopping at plants people have questions about and stopping at the ones that I scoped out before the walk when I was preparing. And at each plant that we stop at, I'd never tell them what it is until we're successfully able to key it out in the guide. And then I really like to do a deep dive into each plant we stop at. I share a bit about its background, including whether or not its native, what its role in the ecosystem might be, and any potential additional uses the plant might have.

Teresa: So this is a multi-part question. Tell us a few different things which are the most popular. What's your favorite? Are only native plants considered wildflowers? What about invasives? Are they considered wildflowers too?

Tracey: Yeah, those are great questions. I'll just work through those from start to finish. And to begin in terms of most popular flowers, spring ephemerals just always seem to take the cake. These are our early blooming short lasting native plants like trout lily, hepatica, spring beauty and trilliums. They grow in sort of special or select habitats. They're stunningly beautiful. And are some of the first flowers we see after a long winter. So it's a great way to shake that cabin fever. And my favorite flowers, I feel like they always change. Right now and through this winter, I have to say I've just been dreaming about trout lilies. There's just a ton of folklore behind the plant. It's this beautiful yellow bloom with red stamens that contrast the petals and leaves are this like mottled purple and green sort of speckled color, which is part of the reason why it has its name after the trout. And they are just also an edible plant, which is something we're going to be diving into. And I eat them only sparingly and only if I find large populations. And their leaves are so sweet and sort of melts in your mouth. And then in terms of invasives, and what's considered a wildflower, you know, when it comes down to it, all herbaceous plants, plants that die back to the ground every year with a flower are wildflowers. It's a flower in the wild, even if it's a non-native. For example, non-native plants, like oxeye daisy are beautiful, and really appreciated by many, but they don't really have any harms to the environment. So, you know, we kind of just accept them in the landscape, even though they're from Europe. But then some other plants, like garlic mustard has a flower and it's in the wild, but it's highly invasive due to its ability to change soil chemistry and outcompete native plants. So even though that's also a wildflower, it might not be a favorite of anyone.

Tim: So I know the name of your autobiography, now it's dreaming of trout lilies, right?

Tracey: Mm hmm. Oh, that's lovely, Tim, I'm going to write that down.

Tim: I know, I like that, too. I'm like, so excited, I want to come on a walk with you now because it sounds like it's more of an exploration. And it's not just, you know, looking at one thing or another, you might be looking at deer damage. Or you might be looking at how climate change has affected a particular ecosystem. Or you might be looking at mushrooms, whatever you're finding is that is that pretty much how it goes?

Tracey: Exactly. I can plan and plan but when it comes down to it, I can never know what's going to happen. I never know what types of participants I'm going to get what we might see while we're out there, or what rabbit holes we might go down. And I think, you know, the most important thing for me is to be adaptive to those possibilities, while still making sure that we cover the content matter, of course. You know, I want to make sure we meet everyone's needs by covering that information they came for, but also including some time to be flexible and to answer questions or concerns. So it is always an adventure for sure.

Teresa: Now that we understand some of the wildflower issues, let's talk a bit about foraging. I'm always hungry. So a free snack in the forest, or just walking down the street sounds pretty good. How would you define foraging for us, Tracy?

Tracey: I also love to snack and browse. And I think that's how this kind of craze started for me. And, you know, actually, when I start out all of my foraging walks, I begin when I go around the room by asking participants to tell me what they think foraging is and to tell me whether or not they think they've done it before. And it's really surprising. Many people have this perception that you need to go deep into the wilderness and find something really special and only then does it sort of count as foraging. And that is just so not true. Most of the foraging I do, it happens right outside my back door. It can be berry picking, plucking some dandelion flowers to toss into a salad, or gathering some spring greens like nettles for cooking. So it can really be this informal, casual way of interacting with the landscape and taking advantage of our wild flora.

Tim: Okay, so I'm kind of a nervous type. And you're making me nervous here because I don't know if I'll be going into the woods and forging without knowing, you know, is this mushroom poisonous? Or does this have some chemical in it? That's going to send me to the emergency room. Re-assure me Tracy.

Tracey: I think you're kind of spot on there, Tim, it can certainly be dangerous. And I guess as I just described it, it might seem like I'm just sort of gallivanting around eating whatever I run into. And that is just not the case. It's been a lifetime worth of studying these plants and these mushrooms. You know, there are mushrooms and there are many, many more plants that could definitely be harmful. And if you aren't familiar with plant identification or mushroom identification, please, please, please do not go out and start tasting things. This could end badly. It really does require a strong foundation and some education to be successful. So I really recommend for these types of learning to have in-person engagement. It's great to have books and resources, but nothing beats sort of that one-on-one, in-person, hands on experience of looking and feeling and smelling the plants and then taking Seeing them after you've been told they're safe. And in fact, when someone reaches out to me, or when there are participants at my foraging class, I generally urge people to really spend a year with a plant that they might be learning or considering to eat. And I noticed sounds really cumbersome. But I think I think it's worth it as opposed to, you know, having an unexpected trip to the emergency room. So over the course of a year, you can really study a plant, watch it go through its lifecycle, and change over time. And this like won't only build confidence for you and your plant identification, but it'll really help you understand where the plant is putting resources at different times of the year, because those are often the best parts to eat.

Teresa: Well, you're definitely an advertisement for the need to go on one of your foraging walks, no doubt about it. So tell us what your favorite forage foods are.

Tracey: So, so many foods, Teresa. I guess I'd have to maybe whittle that down to two categories. wild greens, and wild nuts are both of my favorite categories when it comes to foraging. Spring greens are just so exciting, because I'm craving that nutrient dense and often bitter tonics that I just feel like my body needs. And to cite a couple plants that I think really come to mind are stinging nettles and winter cress, which is a mustard relative. Stinging nettles really have to be harvested with caution, most often gloves because of those stingers. But as soon as they're exposed to heat, the sStingers break down, and they are just this delicious, almost nutty and meaty tasting green. I often like to saute them with just a little bit of garlic and either olive oil or some butter and have them as a side dish. And the winter Cress is a really early plant that shows up just as the snow melts. It often presents itself in a basil rosette with low leaves that grow close to the ground. And those can be pretty bitter. And I think they take some getting used to but once you acquire that taste, like I said, I really crave them. And those are some of my favorite raw greens that I like to just toss in a salad. And then at the other end of the season, while we're winding down in fall, nuts really come into play. And that's when I start to squirrel away food for the winter Shagbark hickories are my absolute favorite nuts. I actually have an industrial while nutcracker just for processing those. But a close second are black walnuts, and they're just so delicious. And it just seems wild to me that we would have to purchase or outsource European nuts when we have this amazing resource pretty much all along rivers and stream banks in the Hudson Valley.

Tim: Okay, so I have stinging nettles and black walnuts on my property so I know where I'm going for my next dinner, I think. I am definitely coming on your next walk. We want to thank you so much for joining us today. As usual, you've given us just an amazing wealth of information and inspired us I think to take a fresh look at the world around us and I hope you'll come back and talk to us about mushrooms and deer and everything else that you're working on.

Tracey: And I hope I inspired you all to try out some new foods and I look forward to coming back.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for Pests and Pathogens.

DeDe: Welcome back to Pests and Pathogens. I'm Dede Turns-Thorpe and I'm here with ...

Jackie: Jackie Hayden, Columbia and Greene County Master Gardeners

DeDe: And today we're going to be talking about a very common garden pest - the beetle. Forty per cent of all insect species are beetles which can include plant feeders, predators, scavengers and parasites. They're a member of the Coleoptera order which consists of 400,000 species including beetles and weevils.

Jackie: Isn't there quite a range of different types of beetles?

DeDe: The adults can range in size from 1/32 of an inch to more than seven inches. Beetles can have a wide variety of antenna from club to serrated, feathery or thread-like. Their bodies however, tend to have an exoskeleton but they can be browned or elongated and their color is highly visible.

Jackie: Do all species have wings?

DeDe: They do. Yes they do. They all have two pairs of wings. The front pair, a distinguishing feature, is hardened or leathery while the hind wings are folded under the front wings. These are the ones that they may use to fly. Typically beetles pass through four stages of development, the egg, the larva, the pupa, or the cocoon, and the adult. The larva are commonly called grubs and the pupa is something called a chrysalis.

Jackie: How would you define that?

DeDe: A chrysalis is the immature inactive period between the larva and adulthood. Larva tends to feed ferociously once they emerge from their eggs. In this grub stage, their soft body with a head capsule, and three pairs of legs on their thorax and no legs on their abdomen. Note that weevils lack legs on their thorax, which is one way to distinguish between a beetle and a weevil. Beetle larva can be differentiated from other insect larvae and by their hardened often darkened heads, the presence of chewing mouthparts and spiracles (breathing spores) along the sides of their bodies. Beetle pollinated flowers are usually large, greenish or off white and color and heavily scented.

Jackie: Can you give us an example?

DeDe: Yes, the magnolia tree is a perfect example. Since maybe spicy fruity or light decaying organic matter. Beetles were most likely the first insects to pollinate flowers. Most beetle pollinated flowers are flattened or disk-shaped, with pollen easily accessible. Beetles interact with their ecosystems in several ways feeding on plants and fungi breaking down animal and plant debris and eating invertebrates.

Jackie: How would you describe that?

DeDe: Well, it would be any animal that lacks a backbone. Some species are serious agricultural pests such as the Colorado potato beetle. Others such as ladybugs are beneficial by helping to control plants sucking insects that damage crops like aphids scale insects and thrifts.

Jackie: Can you tell us about the Colorado beetle?

DeDe: Okay, Jackie, yes, the Colorado potato beetle is a destructive pest of potato plants. It lives on tomatoes, eggplant as well as potato plants. It's quite small about three eighths of an inch long with a bright yellow and orange body and five bowl brown stripes on the length of each of its wings. The females are prolific and can lay over 500 eggs in a four to five week period. The eggs are usually deposited in small batches on the underside of hosts leaves. Once hatched, they feed on the leaves of their host plants. Here destroy potato fields. The Colorado potato beetle is considered the biggest insect defoliator of potatoes. The species has evolved resistance to many different chemical insecticides. So crop rotation is the most important control mechanism. Rotation may delay or reduce the density of an infestation because the emerging adults can only disperse to new food sources by walking. The controls may be used in combination with crop rotation. For instance, mulching a potato crop with straw early in the growing season may reduce the beetles ability to locate potato fields, and the molds creates an environment that favors the beetles predators.

DeDe: The Japanese beetle is a species of scarab beetle.

Jackie: What kind of beetle?

DeDe: A scarab or better known as a dung beetle. The adult measures a bit more than a half an inch in length and just under a half an inch in width. It has a copper colored body and in green thorax and head. In North America, it's considered a pest on about 300 species of plants, including rose bushes, grapes, hops, Canada's birches and linden trees, as well as corn beans, strawberries, peppers, plums, pear and peach trees along with berry bushes like raspberry, blackberry and blueberry. So the odds are very high that you will find them in your garden. The adult beetles damage plants by skeletonized in the foliage which means that they eat only the leaf material between the veins and may also feed on fruit.

Jackie: Where do they live?

DeDe: During the larval stages the Japanese beetles live in lawns and other grasslands where it eats the roots. When present in small numbers, the adult beetles may be manually controlled by using a soap water spray mixture, by shaking a plant in the morning hours and disposing of the fallen beetles or simply by picking them off the leaves of flowers, since the presence of beetles attracts more beetles to that plant, I'm crops such as squash floating row covers can be used to exclude the beetles, but this may necessitate hand pollination of the flowers.

Jackie: But what about the ladybugs? Are they helpful to the plants?

DeDe: Yes, good point. lady beetles, also known as ladybugs or ladybird beetles are considered beneficial as both adults and larva because they primarily feed on aphids. They also feed on mites small insects in insect eggs. There's over 450 species that can be found in North America. Some are native and some have been introduced from other countries. The adult lady beetles are small round to oval in dome shaped the most well-known at black markings on red, orange or yellow forewings but summer black. Many, many crops benefit from lady beetles. They are helpful for growers of vegetables, grain crops, legumes, strawberries and treat crops. However, any crop that is attacked by aphids will benefit from these beetles. Because of their ability to survive on other prey when aphids are in short supply lady beetles are particularly valuable natural enemies.

Jackie: Do ladybugs live through the winter?

DeDe: Yes, they overwinter as adults, often in groups along hedgerows beneath leaf litter under rocks, bark, and in other protected places including buildings. Their tendency to overwinter in homes and other buildings, sometimes in large numbers, may make them a nuisance to some. Preventing the lady beetles from entering is the best approach to keeping them from becoming a household nuisance in fall and winter. Caulking exterior cracks and crevices before the lady beetles seek overwintering sites is the best way to keep them out. lady beetles that entered wall spaces in the fall may remain there without entering living areas until they depart in spring to search for food. But some may become active on warm days in late winter or early spring and move into the living areas. Sweeping and vacuuming are effective methods for removing these beetles from living areas. using insecticides indoors for control is not typically recommended. In the spring, he adults disperse in search of prey and suitable egg laying sites.

DeDe: We could talk about beetles all day but others that may be pests in your garden include the striped cucumber beetle, the viburnum beetle, the Asian Longhorn beetle and the asparagus beetle. Your local cooperative extension can help you learn how to identify and control these two just give them a call. Thanks for listening, this is Pests and Pathogens and until next time, Nature Calls.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for Tools of the Trade.

Joan: Hi, and welcome to Tools of the Trade, a recurring segment of this podcast that highlights a website, app or book that we as Master Gardeners find to be an essential resource. I'm Joan Satterlee, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties. So many gardeners are realizing that in order to support birds, butterflies and other insects, they need to incorporate native plants into their landscape. Native plants are those that were naturally present in pre- colonial times. Because they have been around so long, they co-evolved with the insects and birds. The result is that insects and birds need native plants to survive and thrive. The most obvious example is the monarch and milkweed. Milkweed is the sole host plant for monarchs and without it, they will cease to exist.

Joan: So how as a gardener can you find out which plants are native to your area? Fortunately, Audubon has created that tool and a free and easy to use website. It's the Audubon Native Plant Database, and it can be found at This is a relatively new tool that draws its data from the North American Plant Atlas of the BIOTA of North America program. To use the database, simply go to the website and enter your five digit ZIP code and press the search button. This will take you to a tabbed result page, including best results, full results, local resources and next steps. The search for my zip code returned 118 best results for my area. Audubon describes these results as Important Bird Resources that are relatively easy to grow and are available at native plant nurseries. Those results can be further filtered by type of plant, grass, shrub, tree etc. Features, whether it provides nectar nuts, butterfly-friendly, etc. And type of birds the plant may attract. You can also filter by keyword, so it's easy to browse through the alphabetical research results to find a plant of interest or filter down to a specific plant for your garden. When I filter for a plant in my area from the best results list that is a shrub that has nectar fruits, attracts butterflies and woodpeckers, I get 36 results. My first result is the Allegheny serviceberry. I can read a brief description, see the birds this shrub may attract to my yard, add it to my plant list and even find local nurseries where I may purchase it. If I scroll through the full results list in my area, the database has identified 469 native plants. Each entry includes the common and Latin name, plant attributes and what birds the plant may attract. It is obvious that the developers of this resource put a lot of thought into helping us gardeners select and find native plants for gardens. But that's not all. You can also share your love of native plants via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and register the native plants that you have included in your garden. Audubon also includes incredibly helpful articles on how to plan your native garden, how to shop for native plants, and how to avoid bird collisions, once you start attracting them to your garden -- just about everything you need to know to plan, plant and maintain a native landscape. So now you have the tools, go get started. That's it for this edition of Tools of the Trade. Until next time, I'm Joan Satterlee.

That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We would like to thank Sandra Linnell and Devin Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties for production support. And a special thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene County's Facebook page. For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, visit our website at or visit us in Hudson or in Acra. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities

Last updated May 3, 2023