TEWKSBURY — Thanks to a grant award in February from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Tewksbury’s Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee was able to purchase pollinator kits to plant in the community’s open spaces.
Fast forward to June and the kits have been distributed and placed in the ground, anchoring their roots and getting ready to help enhance Tewksbury by supporting pollinators. Armed with 50-plug kits from the Native Plant Trust, formerly the New England Wildflower Society, members of the committee set out in a socially distanced manner to plant at Rogers Park, Chandler Well Fields, Tewksbury Memorial High School and the Heath Brook School.
OSRC member Karyn Sliva said, "I appreciate the dedication shown by our group members of working collaboratively to help beautify some of our community's open space areas for all of our residents to enjoy!"
According to the Native Plant Trust, the plugs give more of a chance for establishment of these plants with limited need for water and tending. Native pollinators include moths, butterflies, bats, bees, and birds, all of whom are experiencing habitat loss and subsequently species loss. By providing native plants for native pollinators to feed upon, the ecosystem is strengthened and supported.
The OSRC received two different kit types: one curated for full sun, average to dry soil and well suited to open sites with drier conditions; and one curated for part sun, moist to dry soil and adaptable to a wide range of conditions including woodland edges.
Examples of the plants include Aquilegia canadensis: Eastern red columbine, Symphyotricum cordifolium: Blue wood aster, Solidago caesia: Blue-stemmed goldenrod, Pycnanthecum muticum: Short-toothed mountain mint, Asclepias incarnata: Swamp milkweed, Zizia aurea: Golden alexander, and Penstemon digitalis: Beardtongue fox glove.
And while the plants could be easily mistaken for weeds at this point, their blooms will be attractive to pollinators in hues of yellow, pink, purple, red and white.
OSRC member Bruce Shick said, “It’s always rewarding to add a little beneficial beauty to the natural environment for everyone to enjoy when they walk in our woods.”
The kits have been specifically designed to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The seeds for these plants, according to the Native Plant Trust, are harvested from native populations to ensure genetic diversity, so Tewksbury’s plants are derived from existing plant populations in Massachusetts.
The plants provide benefit to pollinators at various stages in their development and each pollinator garden will contain host and secondary plants. Host plant species support five or more native lepidoptera (butterfly or moth) species during their larval stage.
The pollinator gardens are identified with signs that inform residents about the presence of the garden as the plants flourish over time. OSRC co-chair Eva Durkin said that several residents, who were out enjoying the trails, came upon her team and were pleasantly surprised.
“While planting, several residents asked about the project and were pleased to learn that Tewksbury is taking an active role in improving open spaces within town.”
To obtain trail maps for Tewksbury’s open spaces, visit https://www.tewksbury-ma.gov/open-space-and-recreation-plan-committee To learn about the Native Plant Trust, visit www.nativeplanttrust.org.