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Native Plants for New England Gardens: Tips from Authors Mark Richardson & Dan Jaffe

Wild senna is a pollinator magnet

Authors Mark Richardson and Dan Jaffe offer more advice and information from their recent book Native Plants for New England Gardens for enjoying beautiful plants while helping to care for the environment.

We always recommend that people ask these questions at their local nurseries: What native plants do you carry? Have any of your plants ever been treated with systemic pesticides?

Nurseries are businesses and will respond to the needs of their customers when the questions start piling up. We can recommend Van Berkum Nursery in Deerfield, New Hampshire, and of course, people are always welcome to visit us in our Framingham or Whately locations.

There are also a number of online sources these days, and many of our native plants are easy to grow from seed, which is very easy to source online.

Explain more about pesticides and their effect on the environment.

Most people by now have heard the term “neonic,” which refers to a specific class of systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids. Neonics are used to prevent insect damage because they are absorbed by treated plants, making the entire plant toxic to insects. They are long lasting; in fact, researchers have detected neonics in treated hemlocks up to seven years after an application. This is of course a big problem for native beneficial insects, particularly pollinator species like moths and butterflies that feed on leaves of native plants as caterpillars.

Unfortunately, neonics and other systemic insecticides are used widely throughout horticulture, agriculture, and other industries. Maryland and Connecticut have passed legislation restricting the use of neonics, and Massachusetts is considering legislation as well. Some stores have begun voluntarily labeling neonic-treated plants, while others have yet to grapple with this issue at all. People who are interested in using native plants not just for their aesthetic value, but also because they support pollinators, must make sure the plants they purchase have never been treated with neonics.

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