Native Plants and a Middletown Wild Meadow

Just because you see a plant everywhere, and its attractive, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the local ecology.

An intensive project by a group of local volunteers and Maryland Native Plant educator, from the University of Maryland Extension Service, has proven that with hundreds of hours of labor restoring a meadow area along Wiles Branch in Middletown to its natural state—to attract pollinators and local insects who belong in the environment.

The efforts, according to Cindy Unangst, town planner and staff for the Town of Middletown’s Green Team, have been herculean: three events during the past year pulling up 600 square square feet of wild day lilies, as well as multiflora rose and poison ivy; that had choked out the native Creekside wetland meadow. (See wild daylilies below).

The project, proposed by the Master Gardeners two years ago when a local gardener, Ronald Dudley, hoped to plant to attract more bees and butterflies to the area around the popular sports fields at the park. They called in Dr. Sara Tangren, Native Plant Educator, for advice and assistance. “We came to realize the woodlands around the park were already a wet meadow community,” she said. “The native pollinators were buried among the daylilies, which are gorgeous and cheerful, but not at all supportive of pollinators.”

They began working on the project last year after she completed another project in Prince Georges County and turned her attention to Middletown to supervise the hand-pulling of the stubborn plants.

“The areas adjacent to our meadow plot under construction have a lot more invasive da lillies coming up than in our plot where we had hand-pulled them last year,” said Cindy (see photo).

       Area cleared by volunteers, right

And last month, the invasives had to be repulled and a portion of the acreage carefully sprayed with an herbicide because volunteers could not keep up with the entire area. Dr. Tangren said that professional horticulturists carefully target the herbicide on the stem of the invasive, so it will not reach other plants or groundwater.

Now, thanks to the master gardeners’ collection of native plants, the invasives have been replaced with fall aster, great blue lobelia, cutweed coneflower, spring beauties, and a rare species of beebalm. “We are restoring and rejuveninating,” Dr. Tangren said.

We’ll check back in a few months to see how the area is doing!