Pledge to Plant for Pollinators and Clean Water

Wed, May 24, 2017

Why Pledge to Plant?

Stormwater runoff is the leading water quality threat to our urban lakes and streams. Turf grass, a.k.a. “green concrete,” and other impervious surfaces such as streets and parking lots prevent water from infiltrating into the ground which results in increased polluted stormwater runoff reaching lakes and streams. Native plants, or plants indigenous to the region, are well-adapted to local conditions. They also generally have longer root systems—sometimes up to sixteen feet—so they absorb and filter water running off the land and mimic pre-settlement landscapes. To boot, these deeply-rooted plants don’t need to be watered after they are established. If replacing turf grass with native vegetation were to catch on across the nation, the U.S. could be saving about 9 BILLION gallons of water each DAY!

Native plant communities are the basis of our food webs, but have been nearly entirely replaced with human-centered surroundings and non-native plants. The impacts on water resources and pollinators are startling and far-reaching. Three of the four Minnesota biomes (prairie, hardwoods, tallgrass prairie) are nearly gone. The northern boreal forests remain the most intact with about one-third still remaining. According to researcher Douglas Tallamy, native plant species support exponentially more animal species than non-native plants. For example, a native oak tree supports 534 butterfly and moth species whereas a non-native ginkgo tree is not known to support any Minnesotan insects.

Protecting and reestablishing native plant communities is not only important to Minnesota’s wildlife food web, but humans’ food supply too. Namely, native plants support native bees that pollinate many of our fruits and vegetable crops. A typical resident is unaware that there are about 427 native bees in Minnesota, most are virtually stingless, and much more effective pollinators than the well-known honey bee. Important research and education is being done by Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and U of M on honey bees, but native pollinators’ important roles are often overlooked. In Fact, native bees such as mason bees out-pollinate honey bees by 100 times due to their hairy bodies, they can transport more pollen. Native wildflowers provide higher-quality nectar and pollen to insects than cultivated varieties (“cultivars”) that are most popular at nurseries.

How to Get Started

Visit WestMetroWaterAlliance.org to make your pledge. If you need help with getting started, bluethumb.org is a handy website that makes it easy for residents to navigate this new way of approaching their yard by providing all the resources needed for people to plan, purchase and plant their pollinator/water-friendly gardens. Under “find help,” visitors can find native plant nurseries, landscapers, designers, installers, hardscape products, or just the right native plant for their growing situation using the plant selector tool. The plant selector allows users to search by color, sun requirements, time of bloom, etc. There are also grants, how-to videos, and cost-calculators, workshops, available speakers and more.

Who Can We Thank for Starting this Project?

The project was started by West The West Metro Water Alliance (WMWA), a partnership between watersheds, county, and parks agencies in northwestern Hennepin County. This partnership grew from a recognition that the individual organizations have many common education and public outreach goals and messages that could be more efficiently and effectively addressed and delivered collaboratively and on a wider scale. The group collaborates on various projects to provide education about pollutants affecting our lakes, streams, and rivers, and how local residents can help to improve the quality of their local waters.

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